Employees and others representing Kidango, a private, nonprofit child development agency that offers daycare on Pleasanton school district property at Bernal Avenue and First Street, rallied in front of Oakland City Hall yesterday to protest the state's budget impasse, which they say threatens the futures of hundreds of child care centers across the state.
About 500 people joined the rally that was organized by Kidango, which is based in Fremont and has 41facilities throughout the Bay Area. The agency employs 450 people who provide services to 3,000 families.
It closed all of its facilities Wednesday so that its employees and the people who rely on its services could participate in the rally.
Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, Kidango's director of development and communications, said 85 percent of the agency's $28 million annual budget comes from the state, but the state owes it about $7 million.
The state hasn't made any payments since the previous fiscal year ended on June 30, Llanes-Fontanilla said.
She said that if the state Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger don't approve a budget soon, Kidango might have to shut down on Nov. 15.
"We're here to demand the passage of a state budget, and not just any budget but one that funds 700 child care agencies who serve 500,000 families who serve our economy and employ 30,000 people," Llanes-Fontanilla told the people who attended the rally.
She said that if the agencies close their doors, many parents wouldn't be able to work or go to school full time.
Referring to state leaders in Sacramento, Llanes-Fontanilla said, "We won't back down until they hear us."
Politicians flocked to the rally to support funding for the child care centers.
State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said the funding battle "is a very important fight."
"Child care is a cornerstone of our economy because it allows parents to go to work," Corbett said.
She said a majority of state legislators support funding for child care centers, but the requirement that the budget be approved by two-thirds of state legislators has held up funding.
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, said, "Child care providers do the most important job in the state, which is to help the development of our children."
"Our children must be our number one priority," he added.
State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said, "The governor has proposed eliminating child care, but our job is to say, 'We won't go there.'"
Hancock said cutting child care "would leave our children unattended or families unable to work."
H.D. Palmer, Schwarzenegger's spokesman on fiscal issues, said Schwarzenegger made a "dramatic" proposal to cut child care funding except for preschool and after-school programs because the state Legislature failed to act on potential cost-saving measures in other areas that he proposed at the beginning of the year.
Palmer said the state hasn't paid child care centers since June 30 "because there's no budget in place and we have no legal authority to pay the providers."
He said Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders reached a "framework for a tentative budget agreement" last Friday, but the details are still being worked out.
The governor hopes a budget agreement is reached sooner rather than later, Palmer said.
Llanes-Fontanilla said that before Kidango employees and their supporters held their rally in front of Oakland City Hall, they marched 1.5 miles from the Fremont Sports Complex on Stevenson Boulevard to the Fremont BART station and then took BART to Oakland, where they also rallied in front of the city's state building.