Campus Child Care Works to Maintain Services

Photo: UC Berkeley's child care centers, including the Haste Street Child Development Center, have been forced to 'tighten their belts' financially.
Kevin Hahn/Photo
UC Berkeley's child care centers, including the Haste Street Child Development Center, have been forced to 'tighten their belts' financially.

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As California legislators continue to delay passing the state budget, childcare centers at UC Berkeley are beginning to wonder how much longer they can withstand the impact of lagging funds and the anxiety caused by the economic recession.

Of the seven campus child care sites, most are still able to maintain a reasonable classroom size in terms of the number of children, teachers and student aides, but cuts have forced the Early Childhood Education Program to "tighten (its) belt" in terms of how finances are being utilized, according to the program's director Laura Keeley-Saldana, including issuing new requirements for teachers' work hours, which has stirred up controversy.

UC Berkeley considers child care a profit-making enterprise and asks the program to return 9 percent of its profits to the campus, said program relations manager Randice Roberts. As a result, she said the program pays the campus but is not generating much revenue for itself.

"A large part of our funding is through the state, but with no state budget we are relying mainly on campus registration fees to support us," Keeley-Saldana said. "We get a small portion from student enrollment to help cover costs of child care for low-income families, but our allocations from the campus have been drastically reduced the past few years."

But Keeley-Saldana said the state is continuing to send out renovation grants and quality dollars. These grants, along with funds from another relocation project, helped to pay for a new child care center at the Clark Kerr Campus, which opened Aug. 23.

With child care still in high demand and a projected upswing in faculty recruitment on campus starting next year, the program is looking to expand. It is also looking to reopen Girton Hall, a center that was closed last year due to lack of funding.

"We are in a deficit, but the campus still expects us to pay them because we 'generate' revenue because we ask for enrollment fees," Keeley-Saldana said. "We need to adjust our budget. We are looking to possibly adjust the school year schedule for student families so that we can maximize space for children."

As part of the program's effort to reassess its finances, new time requirements have been implemented for teachers and staff.

In a Wednesday letter sent to the teaching staff, Keeley-Saldana announced that teachers and staff must now increase time spent with children from six hours a day to six and a half hours a day. Teachers must also spend their preparation periods on-site rather than at home.

Previously, teachers were able to prepare for classes at home, though they were being paid for a full eight-hour work day. Now, teachers will be held more accountable for their time by having to remain at the center for the entire eight hours.

"As a teacher for 30 years, I would always work my butt off, but there comes a time when you start looking for another job," said a teacher at the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center who wished to remain anonymous because she feared retribution. "They say this change is because of the budget cuts, but they say that every day. They will lose the good teachers."

Because teachers were technically working part-time by spending six hours at the centers, program officials felt that the hourly increase would justify the teachers' wages during a time of economic strains.

Other UC campuses are not as lenient when it comes to where teachers spend their prep time. At UC Davis, Work Life program manager Barbara Ashby said though their child care centers are privatized, preparation time is built into the normal work day.

At UCLA's Fernald Center, program director Genie Saffren said teachers are allowed to prepare at home but seven and a half hours of their eight-hour work days are spent on-site, and most teachers elect to stay rather than to go home.

"The (UC Berkeley) program is only requiring the teachers to spend a half-hour more with the children, and that is not too much to ask," Roberts said. "It's not like they are being furloughed. The director was able to exempt all teaching staff from that, and we are fortunate to have the amount of children that we do."

Negotiations between program leaders and the teachers' union, Coalition of University Employees Teamsters Local 2010, were finalized Tuesday with all hourly changes approved.

"I can understand that this is an emotionally charged topic for staff that had the luxury with working for six hours and were still paid for eight hours," Keeley-Saldana said. "We are talking about realignment with the number of hours spent with children rather than doing paperwork."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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