As state mulls child care cuts, advocates head to Springfield

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Martin Torres, a senior policy analyst at Latino Policy Forum, talks with participants in an advocacy training Tuesday.

Martin Torres, a senior policy analyst at Latino Policy Forum, talks with participants in an advocacy training Tuesday.

As the Illinois General Assembly considers Gov Pat Quinn’s proposed cuts to state-funded child care—a move that would increase fees and reduce eligibility for low-income families—advocates are heading to Springfield Wednesday to speak up for that program and for early childhood education in general.

About 40 local child care parents and others gathered at El Valor Carlos Cantu Children and Family Center on Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday’s advocacy, where they will ask legislators to oppose cuts.

“The impact is going to be on the margin,” says Martin Torres, senior policy analyst at Latino Policy Forum, which sponsored the advocacy training. “We are talking about working parents, caring for their families, having to make the decision about whether employment is viable for them.”

Under the proposed cuts, only those families earning 150 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for subsidies that are now available to families earning up to 185 percent of poverty level.  The difference for a family of 4: an income of $34,575 versus $42,643. (Families now in the child care program who are above the new eligibility limit would be grandfathered in.)

The cost increases could affect families enrolled in CPS Community Partnership Program preschools.  Some of these preschool classes combine the state’s Preschool for All funding with funds from subsidized child care and parents’ payments, in order to offer a full-day program that coincides with parent work schedules.

The state is also proposing a $2.2 million cut to home-visiting programs, a proposal that’s been slammed by advocates who say it could jeopardize millions of dollars in new federal home visiting grant funding.

However, state preschool funding is slated for a $20 million increase.

According to Illinois Action for Children, here’s what would happen to parents’ co-payments under Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed cuts:

* A family of 3 earning $955 a month, far below the poverty level, would see their total fee increase from $10 to $35 per month.

* A family at the poverty level would have the payment double from $56 to $106.

* For families at the top of the eligibility limit who are grandfathered in (185 percent of the federal poverty level) co-payments would increase from $263 to $313 each month.

Torres says some families may drop out of licensed child care centers and get family members, friends and neighbors to watch their children.

Construction consultant Sarah Rios, whose 2-year-old, 3-year-old and 5-year-old attend Erie Neighborhood House and whose payment is $215 a month, says that without the program, she would be shelling out $300 to $400 per child, per week for care somewhere else.

But more importantly, she says, she might not be able to access the other resources – like mental health and nutrition programs—that the program offers. She discovered she needed those supports when her husband was deported a year ago.

“It’s not just qualifying for child care, it’s qualifying for the support behind the child care,” Rios says.