Senators propose quick fix to Stage 3 funding gap

Seeking a speedy solution to the ongoing loss of child care to low-income families transitioning off welfare, Senate leaders called Thursday for an administrative fix that would involve borrowing federal funds earmarked for a different child care program.

In a letter to state schools chief Tom Torlakson, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said they have discovered an administrative remedy" that would not require the potentially lengthy legislative process.

CDE spokeswoman Tina Jung said the department appreciates very much the proposal from Steinberg and Corbett and is working with them on the idea as well as a separate plan from the CDE for borrowing funds from yet another batch of federal child care dollars.

Either way, she said, the department is working to secure a commitment from the Legislature and the governor to put the child care funding back into the budget for 2011-12.

In October, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed $256 million that paid for so-called "Stage 3" child care, which provides support to more than 50,000 families that have either just reentered the work force or are engaged in training or education programs.

Schwarzenegger's action, which was among several last-minute cuts he took to bolster the state's cash reserves, caused widespread criticism and a lawsuit that won a temporary delay in turning off the service.

Several lawmakers have introduced legislation to restore the funding but none have been taken up on an urgency basis.

Steinberg's letter to Torlakson noted that Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed "some measure" of funding beginning in April - a move that would require Legislative approval. Even if that was approved, Steinberg noted, "we face a gap period of three months."

The Senators have therefore proposed borrowing from federal funds designated for future "Stage 2" services - which they said was possible with a commitment from legislative leaders and the governor to make the Stage 2 fund whole with funds from this year's budget.

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