By: Ernesto Saldaña, Associate Director of Programs, Educational Equity Advancement Project California;
Elsa Jacobsen, Director of Public Policy, Child360; and Ashley Portillo-Baloy, Public Policy Specialist, Child360
Surges of COVID-19 infections and emerging strains have punctuated California’s road to recovery, prolonging the uncertainty for families who want to return to work and child care providers who wish to provide safe, stable, and nurturing learning environments for our youngest children. To provide pandemic relief for our child care heroes and working families, Governor Newsom signed the 2021-22 California Budget into law, which includes many wins such as increased compensation for early learning professionals and over 145,000 new subsidized child care spaces for our youngest learners.
The Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) is a group of ECE advocates committed to increasing ECE investments and resources while uplifting the voices, needs, and power of families, young children, and providers of color in Los Angeles County. As the state works to strengthen the ECE system, it is critical to ensure we listen to ECE professionals who have heroically operated and adapted during the pandemic and who can best speak to the needs of the field. To help guide our collective advocacy and ensure equitable implementation of ECE policies and state budget investments, we raise the work of one of our ECA partners: Child360.
Photo courtesy of Un Mundo de Amigos Preschool
Child360, in partnership with Early Edge California, surveyed nearly 600 Los Angeles County ECE professionals about their COVID-19 pandemic experiences as they served on the front line in caring for and educating our littlest learners. Over 85% self-identified as ECE educators of color, and 84% served children who were Dual Language Learners (DLLs), with nearly half indicating that the majority of the children they served were DLLs. The Fall 2020 survey and accompanying policy report released in Spring 2021 uplift these LA voices.
In their survey and interview responses, early educators:
- indicated that a lack of staff training on second language acquisition and Dual Language Learner (DLL) strategies was one of the top challenges in serving DLLs.
- requested professional development in areas such as working with children with challenging behaviors and supporting children in developing social skills.
- identified the effectiveness of having bilingual staff who could support DLLs’ home language development, family communication, and social-emotional connections.
- shared that they had experienced significant financial losses, coupled with skyrocketing costs.
- indicated that they struggled to cover costs for PPE, personnel, and facilities costs.
- expressed the desire to be treated as the essential workers that they are, which includes being paid a fair wage.
- emphasized the need for flexible funding to enable ECE providers to keep their spaces open.
Photo courtesy of Mulberry Tree Preschool
Women of color who make up the majority of the ECE workforce carried the burden to support our families and communities during the pandemic. With this year’s historic funding, we have the opportunity to ensure ECE providers and the families they serve have the support they need to thrive.
Our collective advocacy guided by the voices of the field, such as those highlighted in this Child360 report, will be critical to advance racial equity for our youngest children and the ECE providers that serve them.