We need a child care system that keeps California working and children learning

By Monique Limón Special to The Sacramento Bee


Uncertain times, like the recent partial shutdown of the federal government, have a ripple effect on working families. We saw countless reports of how families were experiencing financial chaos when federal workers missed paychecks and could not cover basic household costs.

Reports indicated that some workers had no option but to call in sick to save on child care, leaving child care educators also without pay. While the shutdown brought this scenario to light, it’s far from uncommon.

California’s working families, especially single parents, have long known the score. They know quality child care is essential to both their ability to earn a living and to their children’s development. Employers need to join this movement because stability and accessibility in the child care workforce allows for their own workforce stability.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s leadership brings new hope by placing a new priority on early childhood education. The governor proposes to phase in universal preschool for all 4-year-olds from low-income families and build a more robust child care system for infants and toddlers.

As the governor has written, the state must emphasize “the first three years of a child’s life when nearly 85 percent of brain development occurs…Affordable, high-quality child care pays dividends for that child’s growth and for our state’s economic growth.”

This was the message from the governor’s first days in office, as he released his budget outlining the infrastructure for the state. We’re finally addressing the needs of our human infrastructure. We know that strengthening our early learning system is the greatest poverty buster for this generation — and the next.

California is the fifth largest economy in the world and runs a 24-hour-a-day workforce, but our child care options for working families do not meet that need, nor do they support those who provide child care.

To improve child care, California must listen to those who know working families best: our 40,000 home-based child care providers. There’s no workforce more knowledgeable or passionate about California’s critical child care needs than this sector of providers, who labor every day to nurture our children and fuel our economy by making it possible for parents to report to work. Creating quality jobs, not poverty jobs, for the child care workforce makes business sense and common sense.

If they are to lead and inform us on the issue of child care, their voices must be heard. That’s why I have introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 378, which would allow child care providers to collectively bargain with the state so they can more effectively advocate for California families, including their own. Remarkably, current law prohibits them from doing so.

It’s well established that effective child care reform must address all pieces of the puzzle — lack of access to affordable care, uneven quality of options and ensuring there’s a stable workforce of early educators. No one is better positioned than child care providers to guide us toward solutions.

As the federal government shutdown reminded us, accessible and affordable child care is essential. It’s not just about the welfare of our children, but also the ability of all parents to do their jobs. I’m eager for my colleagues to join me in building a child care system that can keep California working — and children learning — for decades to come.



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