ANNAPOLIS – Maryland child care advocates are scrambling to save the Maryland Child Care Resource Network, after Gov. Robert Ehrlich slashed 23 percent from child care services funding last week.
The network’s budget fell nearly 70 percent, from $5.8 million to $1.8 million, said Clinton Macsherry, public policy director for the Maryland Committee for Children, a much greater cut than the overall Child Care Administration budget.
“This is the most complicated budget that anybody has ever seen . . . except we know for sure that we’re taking extensive cuts,” said Sandy Skolnik, executive director of the Maryland Committee for Children.
The governor’s office defended the funding reduction and blamed the state’s fiscal crisis for the impending cuts.
“Everybody is going to have to feel a little of the pain,” said spokesman Gregory Massoni.
Budget cuts were expected, but the dramatic decline on the nationally recognized child care programs disappointed supporters.
“The reward for doing good work . . . has been that we take the biggest hit,” Skolnik said.
Maryland has been repeatedly named as one of the top states providing high quality child care by Working Mother magazine.
But it’s the precipitous drop in the network’s funding that most dismays advocates.
“That money has to be restored or the (centers) are going away,” Macsherry said.
The network is a grouping of 13 regional child care resource hubs providing guidance to child care centers around the state.
Debbie Yare, program manager for Howard County’s resource center said the cuts will “devastate” child care in her county.
The center helps thousands of parents find help care for their children and prepares young children for school, Yare said.
“If we go away then all that goes away too,” she said.
Other Child Care Administration programs suffered a similar decline.
Funding for child care assistance to low-income families was reduced from $134 million to $109 million. And the credentialing program, to help child care providers advance in the field, was slashed by $2 million and will operate on $145,000 if the budget is approved, Macsherry said.
But supporters were working hard to restore funding to their child care programs, first by getting the word out.
“We need to let all the people . . . know how devastating this is,” said Skolnik.
The Howard County child care center will hand out flyers at the county’s annual child care fair alerting parents and providers to the problem and urging them to contact their legislators, Yare said.
Then, supporters will take their concerns to the General Assembly and attend budget committee hearings on Feb. 4 and 5.
While the cuts stemmed from the governor’s budget, he was spared some of the blame. “This is not Ehrlich’s doing,” Skolnick said. “We knew that hard times were coming.”