“Families are losing their child care because of a 50¢ raise.”
On December 15th, a cold and rainy day in Los Angeles, the California Department of Education (CDE) held a meeting downtown of its Child Development Minimum Wage Increase Task Force. This group brings stakeholders together—agency and network heads, center directors, child care advocates…and this time, those of us providing care—to address concerns concerning the recent minimum wage increases at state, county and city levels across California.
It was the first time we were a part of this Task Force’s discussions, which began in November—and this time, Family Child Care Providers outnumbered the rest of the group.
|Tonia leads a chant from our Fight for $15 float in April.|
“We were more than half the room. Many of us spoke out about how difficult it is to keep our doors open when our reimbursement rates are kept so low,” said Tonia McMillian, a child care provider from Bellflower and the Treasurer of SEIU Local 99. “I spoke up at this Task Force meeting about how I, along with other SEIU early care and education professionals, fought for the $15 minimum wage. I joined the Fight for $15 movement because I was sick and tired of watching the families I care for struggle to make ends meet. I truly believe we need to raise the wage floor in the country. At the same time, I’m really stressed out worrying about how I’ll be able to afford to pay my assistants $15. I only earned $16,000 last year as a small business owner. And the other Local 99 providers in the room echoed that. Too many providers are forced to close our doors every year because we just can’t pay all the bills in this business. CDE needs to figure this out!”
In 2011, a U.C. Berkeley study noted that after we pay our assistants, buy nutritious food and learning supplies and cover other business and overhead expenses, family child care providers earn as little as $4.98 an hour.
“The other Task Force members in the room were very open to hearing from us. They wanted to know our suggestions. I said that the base reimbursement rate needs to be $15, not $7. The threshold for families to qualify for affordable care needs to be raised, too. It was great to see a few heads nodding in the room,” said Tonia.
|Sue leads the way during our Fight for $15 March in April.|
“CDE really has to look at this as a crisis,” said Sue Carrera, a child care provider in Inglewood. “Not only are providers affected, but parents who are getting small raises are already losing access to affordable child care. Families are losing their child care because of a 50¢ raise. That 50¢ is not going to cover market rate child care. Children will be sent to a neighbor or family member instead of an early learning environment. The quality of care is going to go downhill. And this will affect centers, too. They will need to pay their staff $15 an hour. They’ll lose families, too, who are suddenly priced out of care. Centers will raise their rates to compensate, making child care even less affordable. We need solutions.”
What providers are afraid of is that decision makers in Sacramento will look at the declining enrollment in the subsidy program and think “Oh look! There are fewer families accessing affordable care. That must mean that, with the new higher minimum wage, more families can now afford full market rate child care.” No, they can’t. When infant care in California costs as much as college tuition or rent, we know that’s not the case. They are simply falling through the cracks.
And president-elect Donald Trump’s “plan” for assisting families (read more here) will not address any of this and will likely also diminish the quality of care for California’s children.
“So what we discussed last week will be taken back to the Governor’s office,” said Sue. “I hope that the Governor recognizes that it’s not time for small steps. It’s time for big ones that will truly make a difference. Like I said, this is a crisis.”
We will continue on all fronts—local, state and national—to work to fix our child care system.