Like many mothers and grandmothers who watched Gov. Gavin Newsom take the oath of office this week and sweep up his 2-year-old son while delivering his inaugural speech, I was filled with renewed hope for California’s children.
In that brief moment, our new governor showed that the responsibilities of raising children are ever present for him. In his campaign, he promised to support children in their earliest years, and extend the California Dream to all children and families. That promise is not forgotten.
I have been a child care provider of more than 20 years in Watsonville. Children’s futures and opportunities for working families are ever-present in my mind.
Children in my care arrive early in the morning and stay late into the evening as their parents work two, and even three jobs, but are still trapped in poverty. Many more families can’t access child care, because covering the cost of care would mean not paying the rent. Child care providers know the dilemmas of struggling to pay for health care and housing all too well.
Children of color and low-wage families struggle the most because of cracks in the childcare system. This is why Gov. Newsom’s proposal in his budget to bolster early childhood education can’t come soon enough, and child care providers stand with him to close the gaps.
In California today:
- A working, single mother is paying an average of nearly 70 percent of her income on child care, according to the California Budget and Policy Center.
- There are only enough licensed child care slots for 23 percent of California’s children, according to 2017 California Child Care Portfolio.
- Nearly 60 percent of the state’s child care workforce relies on government assistance programs to get by due to low wages, according to Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley.
The governor’s ambitious plan promises to be a turning point for California’s early learning system and for the children and families who depend on it.
Expanding access to child care means empowering mothers to succeed in the workforce and connecting babies and toddlers to crucial brain-building opportunities.
Expanding full-day kindergarten means children won’t miss out on precious hours of learning because their working parents can’t afford to leave low-wage jobs to pick them up from school mid-day.
As California looks to build the ramp that will help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds cross the opportunity gap, it is critically important that early educators fighting to give our kids a stronger future have a voice in building the system that best serves children and families.
That’s why this year we at Service Employees International Union will continue our fight for legislation allowing us to form a union, changing an outdated and discriminatory law that prohibits a workforce comprised overwhelmingly of women of color from working together to move ourselves out of poverty and improve the quality and accessibility of care we provide.
California’s 40,000 child care providers are eager to work with the governor to close the early education opportunity gap that hurts children of color and low-wage families the most. We are excited for the leadership of California’s new governor, who has prioritized investing in children and workers like us.
We know our state can afford to do better than staggering levels of poverty and stagnant wages for those beneath the poverty line, while corporations’ and billionaires’ incomes keep soaring.
Anna Rodriguez is a child care provider and member of Service Employees International Union Local 521, [email protected] She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.