Child care advocates point to critical need for funding ahead of election

Days before San Francisco voters will be asked to choose between funding homelessness or early child care services, advocates for the latter released a report they say demonstrates a growing need for subsidized access to licensed early care and pay hikes for educators in the field.

San Francisco was home to some 23,000 toddlers in 2016, but only 15 percent of children under the age of two had access to licensed child care providers, according to a community needs assessment published by the San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council Thursday.

The assessment, which education code requires local child care planning councils to conduct every five years, indicated that despite significant investments in the early care system locally, only 27 percent of subsidy-eligible children aged 0-2 receive subsidized services.

Likewise, early care educators earn significantly less than their school age counterparts, despite having equal qualifications. According to the report, teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree in early care and education “make about $20/hour, while TK-12 teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District make over $35/hour.”

“We have a growing population of children 0-5 in The City, we have a number of children who are qualified for subsidies and scholarship …but we don’t have enough space for children, and we don’t have enough teachers,” said CPCAC Chair Monica Walters, addressing early child care providers and City leaders at the C5 Children’s School on Thursday.

In attendance were Supervisors Norman Yee and Jane Kim, who are championing Proposition C — a measure on the June 5 ballot that proposes to raise The City’s commercial gross receipts tax by 3.5 percent — as a solutions to what the CPCAC members said is a growing gap in early care service, particularly for children aged 0-2.

The measure is expected to generate some $150 million in annual revenue to pay for higher wages for educators, address a growing waitlist for childcare spaces and increase the quality of care in childcare institutions.

“We must make child care affordable for every single family, as we know the average tuition of child care here in San Francisco now exceeds tuition at U.C. Berkeley,” said Kim, who is a candidate in the mayoral race, adding that Prop. C would address an “incredibly important issue for our working families and parents, and the pay of our educators as well.”

Yee has told the San Francisco Examiner previously that if the measure is approved, Prop. C could increase early care educator wages by up to 15 percent.

Prop. C, however is competing with Proposition D, another measure that seeks to tap into the same funding stream to address another critical issues of the day in San Francisco — housing.

Introduced by Supervisor Asha Safai, Prop. D proposes to fund affordable housing and homeless services and seeks a 1.7 percent gross receipts tax hike on office space rents. That measure is expected to create a $1 billion fund, with a goal of serving over 25,000 people.

Safai has told the San Francisco Examiner previously that half of the fund will go toward “funding housing for the middle class — teachers, nurses, firefighters,” including site acquisition, and the rest will fund homeless services.

Because the measures target the same revenue source, only one can prevail on June 5. Prop. D includes a provision that if both measures are approved, the one with the most votes would become law.

Prop. C requires a simple majority to win approval, while Prop. D requires a two-thirds majority.

On Thursday, Kim pointed to the report as being confirmation of “all the things that we already know about the importance of early childhood education,” and spoke to the need for resources to be shifted towards clearing waitlists for childcare slots and raising educator wages, calling jobs in the early education field “poverty jobs.”

“We need to make sure that we are paying our early childhood educators the salaries they need not just to survive here in the Bay Area, but to ensure that this is a professional class of educators,” she said, adding that a vast majority of early childcare educators are women of color and immigrant women.

Jennifer de los Reyes, program director at Compass Children’s Center, said that she has seen coworkers leave the field for higher paying jobs in the construction industry.

“Some of my colleagues in areas of the city showing great need for childcare can’t open classrooms because they can’t find the qualified teacher to staff them,” she said.

One of those ares is the Bayview District, which according to the report is home to the second largest amount of the City’s children, or 17 percent, yet over 300 preschoolers from low-income families are not receiving subsidized care that they qualify for.

The report also notes that in all, some 4,500 infants and toddlers “are not receiving, early care and education through subsidized centers, family child care homes, or vouchered license-exempt care with family, friends, or neighbors,” despite qualifying for assistance.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

Laura Waxmann
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Laura Waxmann

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