by Bobbi Dempsey, Community Change Fellow
Alameda County voters will soon have the chance to advance legislation that could mean incredible rewards for county residents, especially the youngest and most needy. Voting YES on Measure C when it appears on the March 3 ballot supports the passing of a sales tax that will fund more childcare programs and subsidize the cost of childcare for families who meet eligibility guidelines.
The sales tax is minimal in impact to the buyer – just a tiny .5 percent – but would have massive impact on the communities of Alameda County, particularly the most vulnerable children and those who care for them.
This sales tax would raise an estimated $150 million per year. The bulk of that would be used to fund childcare and preschool programs, with the rest going towards providing expanded access to free and low-cost health care and emergency services in Alameda County.
Spearheading the efforts to increase awareness about the proposed legislation are groups like Parent Voices Action, a parent-led grassroots organization focused on childcare advocacy in the Oakland area.
This informational movement is driven by a dedicated crew of local residents – most of whom are women of color – who have been making connections with people in every neighborhood, encouraging county voters to get out and vote, showing their support for this legislation.
“Parents across our county are leading the effort to provide early childhood education for their children,” says Clarissa Doutherd, executive director of Parent Voices Action. “We are calling and texting voters every day. We are knocking doors asking voters of color in particular, to vote Yes on Measure C to empower their communities.”
Childcare has become increasingly expensive across the nation, with areas of California like Alameda County getting hit especially hard. At the same time, the available supply of childcare providers is shrinking.
Most childcare providers – even those at the higher end of the cost scale – have long waiting lists. For working class families, the inability to find quality affordable childcare can be an insurmountable hurdle. It is often the main, sometimes only, thing standing in their way of finding and maintaining employment.
Expanding the number of subsidized slots will pay off in significant ways for the entire community. Research has proven a range of valuable gains to both the individual family and the community when high quality childcare is available. In addition, children who have benefitted from quality childcare and preschool services before starting kindergarten have a huge advantage and tend to perform better academically.
Poor children and children of color are much more likely to miss out on these opportunities. Initiatives like Measure C help level the playing field, addressing the inequality that exists when some children have access to critical resources while others do not.
Initiatives like Measure C help level the playing field, addressing the inequality that exists when some children have access to critical resources while others do not.
When these challenges are addressed to establish a more equitable community, everyone wins – especially the children who would otherwise be at a major disadvantage. This can be a big step in helping to break the cycle of generations of racial and socio-economic inequality.
The benefits of supporting childcare programs are two-pronged: Children and their families receive the support they need, while at the same time this creates more jobs for childcare workers. Childcare workers are predominantly women, with many of them women of color.
All too often, communities and our country as a whole undervalue the important work they do. They deserve a fair wage for the critical and often challenging work they perform – work that represents an important contribution to many families in the community.
Vote Yes on Measure C to give every child in our community a better chance to thrive and provide struggling families the support they desperately need.
Bobbi Dempsey, Community Change Fellow, can be reached at https://communitychange.org/.