The constituency for child care has materialized very quickly in recent years. No wonder. According to the Assembly Office of Research, 43% of California children under 6 and 54% of children 6- to 11-years-old have mothers in the labor force. Nationally, census data indicate that the number of mothers who rely on licensed or other organized child care jumped 9% in a three-year period of the 1980s, according to the RAND Corp. That's a change that might have been expected over a much longer period--say, 15 years--and it portends great changes in society, RAND says.
California's child-care experts say they expect 1990 census figures to verify their informal assessment that changes are even more rapid in this state than in the rest of the nation. They estimate that at present there's at least a 500,000 shortfall in licensed day-care spaces--about 150,000 of them in Los Angeles County. In Orange County, where there are more than half a million children under 14 years old, there are only about 60,000 licensed day-care slots available.
All the experts agree that the worst shortages are for infants and young school children.
Many approaches will be needed to deal with this problem. One of them--Proposition 151 on the Nov. 6. ballot--deserves voter support.
It will, for the first time in the state's history, create a $30-million bond fund to help child-care providers build or refurbish facilities. That's a modest amount when matched against the need. But it's a beginning, and one that suggests that if the approach works, other such private-public partnerships could follow.
If approved, Proposition 151 would provide loans to state and local government agencies and to nonsectarian organizations that provide child care. Under strict guidelines, church-affiliated child-care groups also would be eligible.
Proposition 151 would set up a Child Care Facilities Authority that would assess, among other things, which applicants serve areas with significant needs. Loans could be used to construct, acquire, renovate and equip child-care facilities. Interest on the bonds would be repaid to the state treasury by the loan recipients.
Proposition 151 has a broad coalition of support that includes the California Children's Lobby, the League of Women Voters of California, County Superintendents of Schools and United Way of California.
Proposition 151 won't meet all of California's need for child care, but it will help us start meeting the demand. It deserves voter support.