Who creates it? What’s it for? And what stood out?
I love data. I often refer to myself as a “nerd” as I love to research things I am interested in or even things I know nothing about. I’m always excited to come across a graph, a brief, a report or, best of all, an interactive map (check out the Center for American Progress interactive map of child care deserts interlaced with poverty data). As an educator viewing myself from a strength-based lens, I will reframe to say that I’m curious and inquisitive. Why am I telling you all of this? Because my inquisitiveness often leads me down a rabbit hole searching for the root source, or cause of an issue (see Five Whys methodology for root cause analysis. What is the problem, ask why successively)… in this case: a local ECE needs assessment.
Naturally, when the San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC) released their 2023 San Francisco Early Care and Education Needs Assessment I was excited and curious to digest it, as any nerd, er, I mean inquisitive person would be. For a little bit of context: Education Code 8499.5 requires local childcare planning councils (LPCs) to conduct a Needs Assessment every five years (submitted to the California Department of Social Services, CDSS, and the California Department of Education, CDE). Needs Assessments provide important updated information for legislators, planners, advocates, budget staff, ECE programs, community organizations, and the county. According to CPAC’s report, “The information compiled in this report informs the ongoing efforts to improve supply, demand, and access to ECE services for all families, with a focus on low-income families and children in historically marginalized communities” (pg. 7).
So, what is the SF Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC) anyway? The San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC) is the state-mandated Local Planning Council (LPC), “established to provide a forum for the identification of local priorities for early care and education and the development of policies to meet these needs” (https://sfcpac.org/about/ ). SF CPAC members are appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education. State law requires that SF CPAC membership includes equal representation from childcare consumers, childcare providers, public agency officials, community representatives, and discretionary representation.
So, then what is a Local Child Care and Development Planning Council (LPC)?
According to the CA Department of Education and the CA Department of Social Services, “The primary mission of the Local Planning Councils (LPCs) is to plan for child care and development services based on the needs of families in the local community.” LPCs are intended to serve as a forum to address the child care needs of all families in the community for all types of child care, both subsidized and unsubsidized. LPCs hold the responsibility to identify local funding priority areas for state and federal funds for the State Preschool Program.
So, how do these councils then connect to the state and even federal level?
At the federal level, the Administration For Children and Families’ (AFC) provides funding for State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Education and Care (SACs). The SACs are “charged with developing a high-quality, comprehensive system of early childhood development and care” (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ecd/early-learning/state-advisory-councils). In California the SAC is known as the Early Childhood Policy Council (ECPC), which provides “recommendations on all aspects of the state’s early childhood system, including support for the demographic, geographic and economic diversity of the state’s children and families and ways the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care and the Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education’s final report can be updated and improved.” In reviewing all of this, a question I am left with is: do the LPCs’ Needs Assessments which are submitted to CDE and CDSS inform or advise the Early Childhood Policy Council? It is not entirely clear.
One of the LPCs responsibilities include, “Collaborate with local First Five Commission and other entities to carry out child care staff retention initiatives.” As the Board Secretary of Early Care Educators of San Francisco (ECESF), this is one area where my interest peaked.
At ECESF, our mission is to work for the highest quality early care and education and quality of life for all of San Francisco’s diverse young children, families, and caregivers by strengthening the influence and expertise of early care educators as well as building unity with families and community allies to access needed resources and shape program and policy. We support early care educators to collaborate and organize on various issues, one of which being staff retention initiatives. As many of us in the ECE field know, staff shortages, hiring, retention, qualifications (credentials and higher education), workplace culture, conditions, and compensation are all hot button issues right now, (and have been for decades). This is the lens with which I dove into the CPAC Needs Assessment.
So, what stood out most to me in the SF CPAC Needs Assessment…?
In San Francisco (SF), “41% Of San Francisco Children Ages 0-5 Experience Languages Other Than English Spoken At Home” (pg. 12). (Compared to “Nearly 60% of children five and under in California live in homes where a language other than English is spoken” Dual Language Learners (DLLs) – Early Edge California) This fact highlights the need for ECE staff to be multilingual.
The percent of ECE centers in San Francisco that report having at least one staff member who speaks
English is 99%,
and other languages: 9%.
Similarly, the percent of FCC programs that report having at least one staff member who speaks English is 86%,
and other languages: 6%
(2019 San Francisco Child Care Portfolio, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network)” (pg. 12).
Do these very valuable multilingual staff get recognized and compensated for this additional skill and value they add to the program? How is their home or heritage language used as an asset to validate and support the children’s heritage language?
There were 2,293 Compensation and Retention Early Educator Stipend (CARES) 2.0 applicants in the Spring of 2022 who had complete demographic data sets. The information collected from these applicants provides the following snapshot insight into the Early Learning San Francisco (ELS) participating workforce in San Francisco County. (pg. 56)
Fewer than half (41%) of the applicants indicated that English is their primary language spoken at home. The second most common spoken language was Cantonese (31%), then Spanish (16%) and Mandarin (6%).
According to San Francisco’s Department of Early Childhood’s strategic plan for 2023-2027, including a part of their process of family focus groups, “Parents want high-quality early care and education environments for their children. An important theme that emerged was that parents want settings to be culturally responsive, including both an understanding and reflection of language, and engaging all aspects of cultural life.” DEC (pg. 29)
How are these skilled multilingual educators being valued and uplifted so as to provide the understanding and reflection of language SF’s families’ desire and children deserve?
In addition, “Black/African American and monolingual, Spanish-Speaking Latino/Hispanic and Cantonese-Speaking parents identified racism and English-centered communication as barriers to getting the support they need. They want to feel welcome and included in their communities. They want early education and service environments to be responsive to their culture, language, and insights about their own children. And they want to see themselves in the staff working with their children and see their cultures understood, represented, and valued” (DEC strategic plan, pg. 29).
Within the same CARES 2.0 applicants demographic data sets I also noticed that the highest education level reflected by ELS educators is, “More than half (53%) self reported some college level of education. This rate was higher among those who work in a center-based program (63%) compared to those who work in a FCC program (39%)” (pg. 56).
As education requirements for credentials increase across the state, how are higher education institutions removing barriers for these valuable multilingual educators to attain more formal education in their home language? How is that home language being seen as the asset it is with new credentials enhancing pathways to increase support to the 41% of SF’s 0-5 year olds who have a language other than English spoken at home?
Advocating for early care and education means recognizing the vital role of multilingual educators. The recent San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC) Needs Assessment highlights the demand for staff proficient in languages other than English, with 41% of young children in the city growing up in multilingual households. It is essential that our community support and reward these valuable skills in order to provide the culturally responsive environments that reflect the linguistic diversity of families in San Francisco. As education requirements for credentials rise, it is something important to keep in consideration during our sector’s deliberations on certification and professional standards.
Circling back to staff retention initiatives, how can SF respect, validate and utilize these valuable Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) and multiple other language speaking early childhood professionals? Staff feel valued and respected when their whole selves are seen, respected and utilized in their work; including their language and culture. This is what families are asking for as well. This is a win win. The higher education institutions in San Francisco; Community College of San Francisco, EDvance and San Francisco State are challenged with funding, staffing and offering general education and child development coursework taught in (not bilingual education programs) languages other than English, such as Spanish and Cantonese/Mandarin, etc. This is a tall order, a multi-year project, yet one that is much needed for SF children, families and their educators. As the SF ECE Advocacy Coalition & SF CPAC prepare for advocacy in the new budget year, I am compelled to encourage educators, administrators, families, or a passionate community advocate to make your voice heard.
ECESF brings together on-site educators to share our experiences and prioritize key issues for advocacy—join ECESF (fill out the interest form) to further understand the SF ECE policy landscape, build a collective educator voice to elevate key needs to CPAC, Department and elected leaders. Contact ECESF to let us know your concerns, ideas, top takeaways from the Needs Assessment, and/or that you will be joining ECESF representatives at SF CPAC meetings. CPAC meetings are open to the public to attend. Make your voice heard.