Sophia Rodriguez's husband Dan plays with toy swords with their 4-year-old daughter while he holds their 10-month-old son at home in Chula Vista on March 8, 2022. Earlier this year the couple was searching for a state-funded preschool to help with their childcare expenses. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego

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This post originally appeared in the Nov. 17 Morning Report. Get the free daily newsletter in your inbox by subscribing today.

This week, the owners of Honey Bear, a preschool in Point Loma, announced that after 55 years in business the school would be closing next week. “We have spent the last two and a half years wrestling with all of the impacts from COVID as well as state legislation and local legislation,” owners Michelle and Stephen Parker wrote in a note. 

“The childcare industry has been particularly hard hit by the increases in wages and the competition from public programs working with younger and younger children. We have thought long and hard and tried to find a way forward through these challenges, but do not see a viable path,” they wrote.

The closure of a preschool that, at least back in March, was so full that they had waitlists for many classes highlights the tenuous situation some private childcare providers are facing. Even before COVID-19 hit, the industry was stretched thin, with workers stuck in poverty-wage jobs and parents struggling to find spots for their children. But the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the sector and significantly shrunk the already small number of childcare providers, and slots available for the region’s children. 

Now, as the Parker’s statement references, new public initiatives like California’s universal transitional kindergarten program, which expanded to include most 4-year-olds this year, are further stressing the system. By law, 4-year-olds require fewer teachers, which ends up meaning they’re private childcare providers’ most profitable age group. When that age group is funneled into UTK provided by public schools, it makes the whole house of cards come tumbling down.

Jakob McWhinney

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter.

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