Parents, child care providers, women’s advocates and others today delivered a joint letter signed by an unprecedented set of over 45 organizations, leaders and individuals calling on state legislators to support the California Assembly proposal to restore $257 million to early childhood care and learning in the annual budget. The stakeholders say they united to hold elected leaders accountable to this significant allocation as the first step to helping Sacramento lawmakers shift towards a culture of investment rather than cuts to transform California’s approach to education and economy for the next generation. The package is currently being debated in the budget conference committee before it goes to the full legislature.
The delegation brought the letter to the offices of Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez, and was led by professional child care providers who have been uniting with parents in an emerging alliance, Raising California Together. They were accompanied by leaders from the Western Center for Law and Poverty, California NOW, and the American Association of University Women.
Signers of the letter were diverse and represent stakeholders and constituents throughout the state, such as First Five Alameda, South of Market Child Care, Inc., MomsRising, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, CHIRLA, Parent Institute for Quality Education, California Labor Federation, and Kern County African American Child Care Association, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Prominent individuals and leaders also lent their endorsement, including Alison Gopnik, a Wall St. Journal columnist and coauthor of Scientist in the Crib, What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind; Sandra Fluke, the attorney and social justice advocate; and Dr. Alison Wishard Guerra, a leading academic on early brain development with a focus on Latino/a low income children’s education and a member of the National Early Head Start Research Consortium.
“We are united in a shared agenda to protect and prioritize California’s children. Having felt the devastating consequences of the $1 billion diverted from our kids and our communities, we are fighting to protect vital child care and early learning programs from further cuts, and for wise surplus investments in our littlest citizens’ future,” the letter stated.
Some noted that the organizations uniting for investment in children’s early learning under the banner of Raising California Together is critical to fix the economic and achievement gaps that have infected the state’s K-12 system.
“California must invest in brain building, and all the science and common sense point to that happening in years zero to five. The $257 million the Assembly wants to re-invest in early childhood care and education is a good start to put 48,000 more children in safe and stimulating environments that will pave their way to later achievement,” said Patty Bellasalma, president of California National Organization for Women, which helped lead the delegation. “But we need Governor Brown and the Legislature to step up and invest far more significantly in our children’s safety and success. It’s also critical to breaking barriers for working women’s equality and lifting California’s economy, and it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to lose.”
As part of a comprehensive approach to solve California’s broken system of early learning, the organizations also called on Sacramento to enact the Quality Family Child Care Act (AB641), legislation which recently passed the Assembly that would give a stronger voice to parent advocates and empower child care providers to negotiate improvements, increase access and lift the quality of care.
Parents and providers told legislators that the state could no longer afford the status quo and that investing in early childhood education and care will pay dividends to California’s children, families and the economy.
“We have to remember that providers like me are part co-parent, part front-line ‘brain builders,’ tasked with making sure California’s kids are safe and ready to start school on day one,” said letter-delegation member Lisette Knieriem, a licensed in-home provider who operates a family preschool setting out of her home in Citrus Heights and has over 20 years of professional experience. “Working parents need that peace of mind knowing their children are well cared for and are learning in the process. Making sure we raise wise children is a wise investment; the more that we invest in our children, the more we will build the entrepreneurs and executives and engineers of the future.”