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How A $13.8 Million Gift Could Help Close San Diego’s Child Care Gap

Gloria Smith sings,

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Gloria Smith sings, "Head, shoulders, knees and toes," with two girls in her La Mesa childcare center, Jan. 19, 2017.

Hundreds of new preschool slots will be opening in the county thanks to a $13.8 million gift from Guy Clum, the former president of battery manufacturer Power-Sonic.

“I think he really sees that there is such a potential for positive impact in this time in people’s lives and in this space regionally for all San Diegans,” said Katie Rast, director of community impact for the San Diego Foundation, which will administer the fund.

She said infancy to five years old is a prime development stage for children, so access to licensed daycare and preschool can lead to better academic and employment outcomes later in life. But San Diego County lacks licensed child care for more than 65,000 children, according to a report released in May by the University of San Diego and the San Diego County Office of Education.

The childcare gap has been a persistent problem in San Diego and California, but funding hasn't yet surpassed pre-recession levels and calls for a larger fix, such as universal preschool, have stalled.

Rast said she hopes Clum’s efforts bring people together to tackle the problem locally.

“Our hope is that it not only does work to support families and children now and into the future, but that it does, in fact, catalyze others toward action, as well,” she said.

The Foundation has already awarded $3.8 million to four nonprofits:

Educational Enrichment Systems will add more than 330 preschool slots in the North County.

–South Bay Community Service will expand classroom space to help decrease the waitlist for Mi Escuelita Therapeutic Preschool, a preschool for children impacted by domestic violence.

SAY San Diego will begin offering childcare for its employees and act as a model and resource for other employers.

–The San Diego Workforce Partnership will gather data on challenges and opportunities in accessing early childhood education.

The added options for parents come just as more are about to become eligible for child care subsidies. Under Assembly Bill 377, the county will soon raise the income threshold for subsidies, from $58,524 for a family of four to $71,065. The change will make 42,010 children newly eligible for subsidized child care.

Lucia Garay, who is managing the AB 377 program as executive director of early education for the County Office of Education, said she’s encouraged by Clum’s efforts to improve access to child care.

She said she hopes the grants prioritize full-day programs — as opposed to half-day programs that are harder for working parents to access — and programs for infants and toddlers. Research required by the bill showed eligible infants and toddlers were less likely than 4- and 5-year-olds to be enrolled in child care.

The donation will create hundreds of new preschool slots around the county.

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