Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The UC Budget Crisis and its Effects on the Early Childhood Education
Program (ECEP) Community at UC Berkeley

Quality and affordable childcare is important for the recruitment,
retention, academic success and well-being of UC faculty, students, and
staff.  UC Berkeley has failed to offer AFFORDABLE childcare for its
students, faculty, staff, and the campus community at large. 

The UC budget crisis has been felt for a long time and has had devastating
effects on the ECEP community over the years and more recently this past

On Monday, September 21st, the parents whose children attend UC Berkeley
Childcare were notified that Girton Hall is to close without warning on
September 28, 2009 due to low enrollment. Girton Hall is one of four
preschool centers on the UC Berkeley campus.  Although all children were
offered placements in other UC Berkeley childcare centers, parents were not
asked where they would prefer their children be placed.  According to the
letter, the under-enrollment was due to "many families losing their jobs
due to the economy"; however, parents have long complained that admissions
decisions to the UC Berkeley childcare program are made at the last minute,
sometimes after the school year has already started, when parents have
already had to put in place alternate childcare arrangements.   The program
administration, which has in the past made it clear that the program is
moving away from offering care for infants and younger preschoolers in an
effort to become financially independent, cited a desire to open a bridge
Kindergarten in the Girton Hall space as a reason for choosing that center
for closure. 

Thirteen (13) children and the staff of Girton Hall will be transferred to
other programs.   Program administration has not responded to parents'
requests for a meeting about Girton Hall's closure or to a request to keep
the center open until the winter break to allow the children a more natural
transition into their new childcare environment.    *    *    * 

The tuition to attend any of the UCB Childcare Programs is as follows:
$1815 - infants $1660 - toddlers $1375 - preschool-aged children 32-56
months. This represents approximately an 11.5% increase over last year and
puts UC Berkeley's tuition on par with that of private for-profit childcare
centers.  The cost to attend one of the ECEP childcare programs is
prohibitive even for faculty and staff who earn over $65,000.    For
low-income CAL students there are subsidies, but they are increasingly more
difficult to obtain.  Both parents must be either working full-time or
engaged in full-time study.  Recently, there has been instituted a
requirement that the student-parent must maintain a certain GPA and carry a
full load.  

Student families have been crucial in the formation of the ECEP.  Compared
to *all* other top-tiered universities in the country for students with
families, ECEP's mission is or used to be distinctive: to provide
affordable service to student families. Recently however, student families
are the group who has been most affected by the fee increases and (more
generally) ECEP's questionable actions for balancing its budget: more
specifically, (a) subsidized spots are more scarce compared to two years
ago (due to different allocation of funds per spot), and (b)unsubsidized
student fees went from $775/month in Fall 2006 to up to $1375--$1815/month
(depending on age group), a staggering increase of 80--135%. 

The ECEP programs that were once impacted with a waiting list of 300-plus
are now placing advertisements on the Berkeley Parents Network.   Does this
mean that there is not a need for such childcare services?  Of course it
does not. Rather the move to open up the programs to the general (non-UC
affiliated) public, signals a shift in de-prioritizing affordability and
accessibility in favor of increasing revenues.  

ECEP has had to do more with less for a long time and difficult decisions
have had to be made. Unfortunately exacerbating the situation has also been
a mismanaged and weak administration that consistently has failed to be
transparent in its decision-making and to involve parents.  The teachers at
ECEP remain stellar and it seems now more so than ever that their jobs are
at risk.   The closing of the childcare centers at UC Santa Cruz does not
bode well for the ECEP community and for all UC faculty, staff, and student
body who are parents.  UC Berkeley parents are left to wonder whether they
will be the next ones to receive one week's notice that their child's
childcare center is closing. 

Report by Susette Min, Melinda Pilling, Gilad Arnold

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Childcare problems at UCSC are even worse---they closed the on-campus program to all faculty and staff, and shut down summer child care even for grad students.