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San Francisco needs more infant and toddler care and higher wages for early educators

July 13, 2018

by Monica Walters, CPAC

This sign sets the theme for a rally in Sacramento on Stand for Children Day, May 8, 2015.

San Francisco – The San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC), a state-mandated body charged with identifying local priorities for quality, affordable and accessible early care and education services in the city, has released its much anticipated 2017 Community Needs Assessment. San Francisco has made great progress in recent years in offering financial subsidies to preschool-aged children and increasing the overall capacity for licensed early childhood education options.

However, there are significant unmet needs for licensed centers and family child care homes that serve infants and toddlers, and critical workforce investments are also required to attract and retain qualified early education teachers.

San Francisco is home to more than 43,000 infant, toddler and preschool age children, 0-5 years old. As this demographic will grow with the total population, the CPAC Needs Assessment provides an important planning tool for understanding the city’s early care and education landscape.

There are significant unmet needs for licensed centers and family child care homes that serve infants and toddlers, and critical workforce investments are also required to attract and retain qualified early education teachers.

Strategies and recommendations to support working families with young children include income-eligible subsidies adjusted to reflect local cost of living, support for development of new licensed centers and family child care homes, and higher pay for teachers to reduce turnover and increase the number of licensed spaces for children.

“Every day there are children who are not receiving the quality care and education they need to succeed, and every day is a missed opportunity for our city,” said Monica Walters, chair of CPAC. “In order to build a strong community, we need to make sure all our children and families are well supported with equitable access and that our teachers are paid a livable wage.”

Capacity for licensed placements in family child care and early education centers grew by 8 percent to nearly 28,000 over the last five years. In large part because of San Francisco’s commitment to Preschool For All, 94 percent of preschool-age children, 3-5 years old, had a licensed provider placement available to them in 2016. More recently, the availability of Early Learning Scholarships demonstrates the city’s commitment to support access for children aged birth to 5 years old.

However, a considerable gap remains in placements for those families who may want or need licensed care for infants and toddlers. Only 15 percent of children age 0-2 had licensed child care placements available to them in 2016, leaving 19,827 infants and toddlers without a licensed care option.

“In order to build a strong community, we need to make sure all our children and families are well supported with equitable access and that our teachers are paid a livable wage.”

“Doctors and scientists have found that the most critical time in brain development is actually from birth to 3 years old. The brain’s capacity is 90 percent developed before a child reaches the age of 5.

That means that when our kids enter kindergarten, by that time, the children who have NOT had early care and education are entering kindergarten already behind,” said Supervisor Jane Kim. “Early childhood education is not a luxury – it is THE solution to ensuring that our future generation is nurtured and prepared to enter the world and meet their potential.”

All children should have the right to high quality early care and education, yet many come from families where affording care is not feasible. Eleven percent of San Francisco children, age 0-11, live below the federal poverty level, and 30 percent are in families that meet the income eligibility benchmark for state child care subsidies.

By leveraging a diverse mix of federal, state and local funding, San Francisco children have access to a wide range of subsidized early care and education options, including Head Start, California Department of Education, CalWORKs, local Early Learning Scholarship vouchers, and more. More than 9,500 children, age 0-11, received subsidized early care and education through these licensed and vouchered options in 2016. A family qualifies through income eligibility or categorically, such as homelessness, CalWORKs participation or foster care.

“Early childhood education is not a luxury – it is THE solution to ensuring that our future generation is nurtured and prepared to enter the world and meet their potential,” said Supervisor Jane Kim. 

“The 2017 CPAC Needs Assessment is a powerful tool that our city must use to effectively target investments where they are most needed,” stated Supervisor Norman Yee. “San Francisco cannot claim to be a family friendly city if our largest gaps are felt among families with babies and toddlers. We must leverage the data that we have, support our quality early education system, our early educators and our low and middle income families so that they can stay and thrive in our city.”

Although the city has a significant number of children receiving early child care and preschool subsidies, the current funding available is heavily focused on the needs of preschool age youth, and only covers 38 percent of the children, age 0-11, who are income eligible for subsidies, leaving over 14,000 children in need. Subsidy enrollment is based on families with the greatest need when a subsidy becomes available.

“The 2017 CPAC Needs Assessment is a powerful tool that our city must use to effectively target investments where they are most needed,” stated Supervisor Norman Yee.

The CPAC Needs Assessment acknowledges that San Francisco cannot increase early care and education capacity without having enough qualified teachers and support staff. A strong workforce is paramount to access and quality care.

Despite almost half of San Francisco early educators having over 10 years of experience in the field, they earn significantly less than school age educators, even when accounting for similar educational backgrounds and college coursework.

San Francisco early care and education programs often have a hard time retaining teachers because of these low wages. A CPAC survey of local program administrators found that over 33 percent of centers did not have sufficient teachers and staff to enroll as many children as desired.

Without addressing these insights into the early care and education workforce crisis, San Francisco will have fewer placements available for young children than the licensed capacity numbers would indicate.

To view or download the report, go to SFCPAC.org or here. To find child care in San Francisco, contact Wu Yee Children’s Services at www.wuyee.org or Children’s Council at www.childrenscouncil.org. Monica Walters is CEO of Wu Yee Children’s Services and can be reached via communications@wuyee.org.

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