The problems created by the cost and availability of child care in the Bay Area are profound. It is a significant contributor to an opportunity gap. The nonprofit group First 5 has found that just 44 percent of children are fully prepared to enter kindergarten. This is a crisis with social and economic consequences that merits a vigorous public-policy response.
Alameda County has found a way to do it right.
Measure A, on the June 5 ballot, would raise the county sales tax by a half cent to provide an anticipated 7,000 new scholarships to children in low-income families. The $140 million annual revenue from that tax would essentially double the funding available to child care in the county, according to Supervisor Wilma Chan, who has been a champion of the issue since her tenure in the state Assembly in the early 2000s.
“I see this as an economic development strategy,” Chan said.
The economic benefits of this measure would be direct and indirect. More parents, especially single ones, would be able to go to work or attend college. Thousands of families who cannot afford the full cost of child care are stuck on waiting lists. The increased subsidies would allow the county to require that child care workers be paid at least $15 an hour, which would reduce their reliance on public assistance programs.
But, perhaps most of all, this would give more young children in the county a chance to succeed from kindergarten and later life.
“It really has to do with children and the future of Alameda County,” said Angie Garling, the county’s early childhood education administrator. “This is really, really necessary to do.”
The county approached it with a requisite sense of purpose and diligence. The plan is laid out in a 40-page report that is available online for voters to review. It resulted from 100 “listening sessions” throughout the county. The spending would be subject to annual audits and reviews by a citizens oversight committee.
Obviously, the same child care crisis exists throughout the region, but the contrast between the well-constructed Alameda County Measure A and San Francisco’s more politically expedient Proposition C could not be more dramatic.
Shortcomings of the San Francisco plan, promoted by mayoral candidate Jane Kim, include its reliance on a volatile and narrow tax on commercial rents and its set-aside of 15 percent of its revenue to the general fund — a concession, Kim has admitted, to the San Francisco Labor Council. Those were among the reasons we have recommended rejection of Proposition C.
We have no such reservations with Alameda County’s Measure A. The proponents have done their homework, presented a thorough and credible plan, and are dedicating all of its revenue to its stated purpose: to improve the quality and availability of child care. We recommend its passage.
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About Measure A
The proposal was put on the June 5 ballot by a unanimous vote of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Increase the county sales tax by a half cent for the next 30 years. The total current sales tax burden ranges from 9.25 to 9.75 cents, depending on the city.
Generate about $140 million a year.
Require that child care workers be paid at least $15 an hour.
Provide scholarships for lower-income residents, defined as having an income of $71,064 or less for a family of four.
Increase training and professional development programs for providers.
Create a citizens advisory committee to annually review the spending of sales-tax funds, which would also be subject to an annual audit.