In a speech Tuesday morning about the state of education in California, state schools chief Jack O'Connell described the current condition of California schools as "precarious." He is hardly exaggerating. California's budget deficit sits at $41.6 billion, and O'Connell said education may be cut by $10 billion.
One program slated for the budget axe in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed 2010 budget is First 5, a program that funds a wide range of early childhood programs, including preschools, health services, and parent collaboration programs. The governor's budget eliminates funding for the state-wide First 5 commission, which has been receiving 20 percent of the money authorized for the First 5 program. (That allocation is used primarily for media campaigns and program coordination.) The budget also halves funding for the 58 local commissions, which are responsible for determining exactly where money should be spent and disbursing funds. The governor said he plans to redirect the $275 million saved by these cuts to other state programs that serve children.
This is the latest blow to First 5, a program that has struggled in recent years to retain credibility in the eyes of policymakers and the public. Indeed, this is not just about the fate of First 5, but about how to structure services for young children generally.