The California Budget and Policy Center has released its latest child care and preschool fact sheet (here) with the headline that, adjusted for inflation, state spending on early care and education (ECE) programs are “near pre-recession levels with [a] boost from one time funding”. The fact sheet goes on to describe the history of the state budget in reversing the $1.4 billion (approximately 36%) in cuts made to ECE from 2009-10 to 2013-14 to the current budget of $3.9 billion. Importantly, funding for slots remains $250 million less than in 2008-09 (adjusted for inflation), meaning that tens of thousands of fewer children are being served despite this restoration. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this restoration includes hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funds and one-time money (specifically the Inclusive Early Care and Education Expansion Program) and that funding for vital pieces of California’s ECE system, like the centralized eligibility lists, resource and referral agencies, and local planning councils, have either not been restored or have not kept pace with inflation. Given that, the report seems less like cause for celebration than evidence of the state’s ongoing underinvestment in its youngest citizens. A number of politicians have observed that a budget is an expression of values and, as elections draw near, it is worth considering whether our state budget reflects the value we place on young children.