This is part of our series on new California laws taking effect in 2018.
Parents hoping to take English language and high school equivalency classes have long faced a barrier to education: the high cost of childcare.
A new California law makes parents taking advancement classes eligible for the same child care assistance that working parents, parents seeking employment and parents in vocational programs already had.
Advocates say the rules around eligibility for state-subsidized child care were confusing. Some programs would accept parents taking advancement classes, while some would turn them away. The new law explicitly states that those parents will be eligible. The California Department of Education will send a bulletin to programs notifying them of the change.
There are about 186,000 California children currently in state-subsidized child care.
Ronnie Muro, a Fresno mother of four, said she’s been getting state assistance for child care for her three youngest children while she’s been job-searching. She wants to enroll in a nursing program, but she has to complete her GED or a high school equivalency class first.
When she asked her county referral agency if she could get subsidized child care while she took classes, staff told her they weren’t sure.
“That’s kind of what’s been holding me back,” she said. “So if I go back to school and they don’t cover me, then who watches my kids?”
There are 1.6 million California parents who are not proficient in English and/or lack a high school diploma, according to the California Budget and Policy Center.
Mary Ignatius, an organizer with a nonprofit group called Parent Voices CA, said having access to low-cost child care will help thousands of adults — especially women of color — achieve their career goals. That also benefits children, she said.
“We really saw this as a two-generational impact,” she said.