Despite major steps forward – including the passage of San Francisco’s Prop C in June 2018 and Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent budget proposal, which could direct $1.8 billion to early education – today’s Early Care Educators of San Francisco Issues Luncheon shined a spotlight on the troubling issues that remain for families and early educators in the Bay Area.
A mix of key child care community leaders, early educators and childhood development experts engaged in lively dialogue with SF city officials and members of the Board of Supervisors.
Locally, funds potentially generated by San Francisco’s voter-approved early care and education Prop C last June remain in limbo following the filing of a lawsuit in November, questioning its validity. At the state level, child care advocates are pressing Governor Newsom to stand by his bold commitment to early care and education when his revised budget is released in early May.
Still, as Board Supervisor Rafael Mandelman stated, “This is a time of great opportunity in California… there is tremendous will to try to create universal access to child care. The resources available for the one-year-old are exponentially more important than the resources we make available for the nine-year-old, when we think about brain development.”
According to keynote speaker Lea Austin, Co-director of UC-Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, “The key to quality child care is educators. Teachers need adequate preparation to provide for children in group care. That includes support and training before they become educators, but also better compensation, time for planning and professional development opportunities.” The Center’s 2018 early childhood workforce index tells the story of a national workforce in crisis.
Austin went on to say, “Equity questions persist about why the child care workforce continues to be paid wages that don’t support their own self-sufficiency or the needs of the children they serve. Industry workers are almost entirely women, and predominantly women of color. Early educators who work with infants and toddlers earn $6,000 less per year than their counterparts serving other age groups. Ironically, the most sensitive brain development period for children is during the first 3 years of their life. We also see evidence of a racial wage gap.”
Educators, many of whom run their own child care businesses, raised issues about why the current crisis is so acute and why deeper public investment is needed.
Barbara Gallios of C5 Children’s School pointed out the critical nature of brain development during a child’s infancy, stating, “All the teachers, amazing as they are, who touch kids’ lives after their first five years, can have all the software they want, but early educators shape the hardware of a child’s brain.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s education advisor Jenny Lam was involved in the early days of the creation of Early Care Educators of San Francisco (formerly known as San Francisco Child Care Providers’ Association). According to Lam, “For me, this is very personal. I took the leap of faith when my baby was eight weeks old, leaving my child with someone I didn’t know, because I had to go back to work. I carry that experience every day.”
Another major topic of discussion was the recent windfall of funds from San Francisco’s fiscal year budget. “Last year, for the entire year, we had an entire classroom in the Bayview closed. Why? Because we couldn’t hire teachers,” says Yohana Quiroz of Felton institute. “We need a stable workforce. We do that by continuing to make investments in compensation so that providers have a living wage. We have a great opportunity right now with the windfall money.”
“Parents could not go to work without the opportunity to bring their kids to a secure, safe, healthy environment. We want to make a firm commitment to the principles of Prop C with this windfall money,” said Supervisor Asha Safai. Likewise, Supervisor Shamann Walton said, “I see all of these initiatives as the will of the voters. I feel those resources should go towards the things we already fought for.”
“I am working hard to ensure that $20M in windfall money is being set aside for early educator salaries,” said Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, a longtime advocate for San Francisco’s child care community. “But advocates need to continue to make their voices heard about how important this issue is for San Francisco families and children who rely on these early educators.”