On a bright Saturday morning, approximately 200 people gathered at the Boys and Girls Club in San Leandro in support of the campaign kick-off for Measure A: Alameda County’s Ballot Measure for Child Care and Early Education.
Measure A will appear on the county’s June ballot in 2018. If passed, Measure A will enact a half-percent sales tax, which will generate approximately $140 million annually. The county will use the money to extend more childcare resources to low and middle-income families who cannot afford them currently. The money will also be used to help homeless children receive safe, quality childcare. Funds will be allocated to create more childcare centers across the county, and raise wages for childcare workers.
The event featured speakers such as California State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), County Supervisors Wilma Chan and Nate Miley, who both represent Oakland, childcare workers who gave testament to the struggles of living on low wages, and parents who spoke about facing hardships in their search for adequate childcare.
Frank Smith, a father of two children, said he knows all too well the struggle of finding childcare. “I was in the trenches being a single dad. I had just gone through a separation, and heading into a divorce, and I had my two children and puppy, and a car full of clothes. I found myself going to places to ask for shelter and I was judged as a male. I was told, ‘Well, you’re not a family. We only have room for families. We can’t help you because you have a daughter.’ These were things that just didn’t make sense to me,” said Smith
Smith credits Parent Voices of Oakland for educating him and helping him find a solution to his childcare needs. The group is a parent-led grassroots organization that advocates for affordable quality childcare. “They took me in, and navigated with me about things that I knew nothing about. I really just liked the atmosphere and the dialogue, and how they kept it real,” Smith said. “It was everyday folks just out here fighting, not just taking no for an answer when we understand the problem. We weren’t looking for justice, we were looking at just us. Because it is just us, so let’s get together and make it happen.”
Smith recalled his experience interacting with childcare workers who he described as unhappy at their jobs because their wages were too low. “You don’t want someone taking care of your child that’s not happy,” said Smith. “We can’t make everyone happy, but when you give someone some decent money to help them not stress about their gas, or how they’re going to eat at lunch, it can be helpful.”
Smith wasn’t the only person in attendance who has experienced problems finding childcare help. Delise Monroe has been working with Parent Voices of Oakland for almost two years, felt that she needed to be present at the campaign kick-off. “There are a lot of changes going on in Oakland, and we need this. I know how important it is for people to have quality childcare, affordable childcare, having your kids go to the best schools—not just the schools they live near,” said Monroe.
Monroe believes that if this measure passes in June, it will open many doors for people living in Alameda County. “Could you imagine not having childcare, not being able to go to work or school, not being able to do the things you need to do, because you don’t have a place for your kids? It’s going to take a burden off the shoulders,” said Monroe. “I know it will, because I have been there before.”
Monroe recalled her past struggles with not having access to adequate childcare. “If you don’t have childcare, you can’t do anything! A lot of the times when you do have childcare, you can go to school and work to support your family. You can’t be independent without having some help through obstacles in your life. Childcare is the piece of the puzzle to independence,” said Monroe.
Tarsha Jordan is member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). She attended the campaign as an advocate to show her support for childcare resources. She is working with Raising Alameda, an organization of local childcare providers, parents, and teachers who work to help families who depend on these resources. The group also advocates for investment in local childcare systems. “Once this initiative passes, childcare will become more affordable and accessible for families,” said Jordan. “Our workers will be paid more, which will encourage them to stay with us, and hopefully also encourage parents to bring their children to programs that are now affordable.”
Jordan said she believes that the community will play a large role in the success of their campaign. Having community members spread the message through word of mouth and social media will create an awareness of the childcare problem, she said, and so would having people put signage supporting Measure A in their windows, doors, cars, and businesses. The goal of the campaign is to flood voters in the county with the information they might not have before Election Day on June 5.
Throughout the event, people could visit the “Children’s Corner,” which allowed parents to spend time with their children and help show supporters the importance of childcare. In addition, there was a station called “Share Your Story,” enabling willing members of the audience to sit down and talk with one another as they exchanged firsthand experiences about their struggles with childcare.
Once all the speakers finished, the campaign members led groups to go outside and talk to neighboring residents about the campaign and what they hope to accomplish in the future.