SF needs $10M more for early education, says advocate

A San Francisco childcare advocate Friday called for a $10 million increase in the city’s budget for early care and education to boost workers’ wages and help more children get childcare.

Monica Walters, chair of the Board of Supervisors’ Child Care Planning and Advisory Council, spoke at an event attended by elected officials and about 100 people who work in the childcare field at the War Memorial Auditorium.

Walters said:

“Our local investment in early care and education should be increased by $10 million per year in the fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19.”

Walters appeared at a luncheon put on by the San Francisco Child Care Providers’ Association. She said:

“Our wonderful city has made investments in supporting our childcare and early education programs, but the investments fall short of needs.”

Walters said more than 2,400 San Francisco children are on the subsidy eligible waitlists, and the childcare workforce has high turnover and staff shortages because of the low pay childcare workers receive.

Walters said on average early educators earn $19.28 an hour, which is $7.60 an hour below the San Francisco self-sufficiency wage for a single adult and $17.13 an hour less than a first-year teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District with a bachelor’s degree.

The mayor presented a proposed $10.1 billion budget to the Board of Supervisors Thursday night, September Jarrett, Director of the San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education, said. The budget includes approximately $109 million for early care and education, Jarrett said.

There’s $21 million more in the budget than originally presented by the mayor on behalf of homeless children who need childcare, Jarrett said.

Cyndee Nieves, associate director for Mission Head Start/Early Head Start in the Mission, Bayview and Excelsior districts, said early education teachers are “notoriously underpaid” compared with other teachers.

Many workers at Head Start can’t afford to live in San Francisco, she said. One member of Nieves’ staff has commuted to work in San Francisco’s Mission District from eastern Contra Costa County for the last 20 years, Nieves said.

Walters, who is also the CEO of Wu Yee Children’s Services, a San Francisco agency, gave a shoutout to California Assemblymen Phil Ting and David Chiu and California State Senator Scott Wiener, the latter three of whom were in attendance.

She also lauded San Francisco Supervisor Norman Lee, saying:

“He has always been a champion of education.”

According to Wiener, having access to early childcare can be the difference between being able to work and have economic success or living in poverty for some families.

The state senator called for more investment in terms of access to childcare:

“Keep on fighting.”

Chiu told the group:

“We have to make sure you have dignity in your work.”

San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy urged members of the group to attend the June 19 public hearing on the city’s budget:

“Please come to City Hall and make your voices heard. I am so grateful for all the work you do.”