In our work, there are always limited resources. This can, unfortunately, put those working toward the same goals at odds—competing for members, for donors, for grants, or for state or federal funding. This is the case for many nonprofits and afterschool providers and has been the plight of afterschool and child care advocates for years. The constant need for increased public investment has led our two groups to sometimes feel as though a win for one is an automatic loss for the other. This has been true in some communities where there has been competition for kids or for classrooms, and it’s been true in the state capitol with competition for funding and attention from policy leaders.
Now, we are flipping the script.
The enormous needs of kids and families necessitate that we join forces. We know that our programs serve families in the same communities, families at the same schools, and often the same exact families at different points in time. It’s time we make that clear to policy leaders in the interest of generating sufficient resources and policies that better meet the needs of all children—before and after they’ve entered Kindergarten, after school, in the summer, and other hours kids are not in school and families are working.
A bit of history.
When Proposition 49—California’s historic ballot measure that guaranteed $550 million annually for afterschool programs at elementary and middle schools—was implemented in 2007, it created some chaos at school sites that already had school-age child care programs. In some cases, Afterschool Education and Safety (ASES) programs displaced child care programs, and in other cases, separate programs were established on the same campus. But due to very different rules and regulations, kids and activities could not be combined, creating an unfortunate segregation of kids. This problem persists today.
When the recession hit in 2008, ASES was protected thanks to the guarantee of Proposition 49, but child care and many other education and human service sectors were slashed during these very tight budget times. This generated some ill will for the afterschool community, particularly in the state capitol. We, the afterschool community, were deep in implementation of a massive new funding source and did not have the capacity—or the foresight—at the time to step up and add our voice to the budget fight our child care counterparts were forced to wage. We kept our heads down and weathered the storm.
Over the past four years of fighting for our own budget increases, due to the rising minimum wage in California and a stagnant ASES daily rate, we have realized how much we need allies in the child care and early learning worlds, and we’ve experienced the downfalls of being pitted against each other instead of working together. The child care and early learning coalitions have been fighting for a long time, raising public awareness and garnering attention in the state capitol. Learning from their experience as well as other successful advocacy efforts, the afterschool community has become organized in a short period of time. We have gathered thousands of supporters across the state, we have a strong and growing group of providers actively educating and influencing key legislators, and we’ve had some wins. While we still have a lot of building to do, we also have a lot to offer as a large and increasingly influential coalition, and there’s much to be collectively gained from stepping up our strategic partnerships with our child care and early learning allies.
This past fall, we began to lay the groundwork for collaboration.
A group of afterschool advocates spent a full day in Sacramento with a group of early learning and child care advocates to debrief what got us to where we are today, unpack the many challenges we share in common, and begin to develop ways to join forces to create a more united front with policymakers. We discovered that we share common issues around quality—how to measure quality, how to ensure high-quality programs, and understanding the true financial cost to deliver high-quality programs across the board. We also discovered shared challenges around staff training and retention, reimbursement rates, and more. We discussed how complicated and inefficient the current system is for families. And we committed to being better partners to one another in our mutual goals.
We are now looking toward a new legislative season in 2020 and a new, more united outlook.
The Governor will release his proposed budget this month, which will lay out his priorities. The legislature will return to Sacramento to refine and introduce bills and begin the long debate about the state budget. Afterschool advocates, through the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3), will be asking the legislature and the Governor for a $99 million augmentation for ASES so that programs can simply keep pace with minimum wage increases, and also for a Cost of Living Adjustment so that we don’t need to come back and ask for funding year after year. Early learning and child care advocates are developing their priority asks for 2020 as well. In the halls of the capitol, in budget hearings, in the content of our letters to legislators and the Governor, we will increasingly be side by side, making clear that both systems deserve increased investment and a more coherent set of policies so that we are truly meeting the needs of children and families across the state.
For breakfast, I had hot, creamy oatmeal loaded with raisins, walnuts, and brown sugar. A winter favorite!