SEIU 521 top leader Luisa Blue joined the “Gapbusters” bus tour to support child care providers whose day-to-day work with children has been proven to be critical to their future success in life. Read Lusia’s blog post: Busting the Achievement Gap
“If we don’t start today, we won’t be ready for tomorrow. Investing in early learning and care is—literally—investing in California’s future.”
– Luisa Blue, Chief Elected Officer of SEIU Local 521.
The Gapbusters bus tour was a three-day, seven stop tour that began Feb. 18 in San Diego, and ended Feb. 20 in Sacramento. Its primary focus was to highlight the uniquely powerful roles that early childhood education and care play in preparing California’s kids for school and closing the achievement gap.
The bus tour, organized by Raising California Together, called on Governor Jerry Brown to position California to lead nationally by having every child—particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds—ready to learn on the first day of kindergarten, and to continue to build on his legacy of a strong K-12 education system for all of California’s children.
Also joining the Gapbusters for a listening tour was special guest #KidGovernor, a young lady committed to the mantra of “Putting Kids First”.
Bakersfield: Set Our Kids Up for Success
The brightly decorated Gapbusters bus pulled up to Glenda Lomax’s Family Day Care in southwest Bakersfield. Passengers on the bus – Education advocates, labor leaders, child care providers, parents and children in cap and gown– joined local leaders and family child care providers to speak out on the importance of investing in early education and closing the achievement gap.
“Early education is the best way to set our kids up for success,” said Glenda Lomax, a Bakersfield family child care provider. “If we want to move California forward then our leaders can’t continue to ignore the crucial years where the brain building happens. I hope our leaders in Sacramento see these little kids wearing their caps and gowns as an inspiration because California can see many more students in caps and gowns if we get serious about investing in quality care for all children regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make.”
Throughout California, kids from lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, have their chances of moving out of poverty in adulthood stolen from them before they even set foot inside a kindergarten classroom. When our children miss out on early education opportunities such as in-home child care and preschool, they often start kindergarten as much as 18 months behind their peers, falling victim to the achievement gap that most often leads to a lifetime of “catching up,” rather than a life full of learning.
“If we want kids to succeed in grades K-12, we need to set them up for success from zero to five,” said Andrae Gonzales, President, Bakersfield City School District Board of Education.
During the recession, California cut more than $1 billion from early learning and care programs—and now 300,000 kids are paying the price – its time California begins restoring funding to the early learning our children need to succeed in school and in life.
“I would be sick if they cut early education by a billion dollars in my state. If we were facing that, I would rally support around our capital with other providers and parents, and work with our lawmakers to make them find solutions–that would be a huge problem,” said Washington state provider Marie Keller.
Before boarding the bus to move on to Fresno and San Jose, Gapbusters attendees participated in a “Show of Hands” art project, leaving a painted handprint on paper in support of early education.
Community leaders in attendance:
Willie Rivera, Bakersfield City Council, Ward 1
Andrae Gonzales, President, Bakersfield City School District Board of Education
Cheryl Nelson, Director of Community Connection for Child Care, KC Superintendent of Schools
Luisa Blue, Chief Elected Officer, SEIU Local 521
San Jose: The Growth Potential of Early Education
The last stop on the second day leg of the three-day tour ended at Jaime Ellis’s home.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and when people ask what our hours are, my answer is: My doors are never closed,” said Jaime Ellis, whose home was the setting for the bus tour stop in San Jose on Feb. 19. “As an early educator I have seen first-hand the difference it makes when a young child is exposed to the consistent reading time we offer at day care. There are kids who by age three can already name their two top favorite books and then there are kids who have missed out on early reading altogether. If the achievement gap can be detected as early as age three, then California must invest in our children as early as possible to keep the gap from opening up in the first place.”
Special guests in attendance included Assemblyman Anthony Rendon; Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese; Campbell Mayor Evan Low (on behalf of Assemblyman Paul Fong); San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra; Darcie Green, Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee; and others.
“When children are brought into our day care, we know each of them has the potential to grow up and do great things, we see future graduates, future astronauts, chefs, scientists and novelists,” said Lorena Wright, a child care provider in San Jose. “It’s now time for California leaders to join us and also see our children’s potential and invest in that potential! Sacramento can begin by restoring the over $1 billion that has already been taken away from early learning and care.”
The achievement gap impacts lifelong educational performance and is directly linked to poverty, inequality and crime. Early childhood learning and care can help close that gap and even prevent it from opening in the first place. In fact, quality early childhood education, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, has been shown to:
- Increase high school graduation by 31 percent
- Increase college attendance by more than 80 percent
- Increase employment by 23 percent.
- Reduce the prison population by 13,000 and save the state government $1.1 billion every year.
“California is a national leader when it comes to bold initiatives that have a lasting, positive impacts on our state,” said Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, author of the Quality Family Child Care Act, AB 641. “But where we have failed to lead is on investment to early education and care despite it’s crucial role in preparing our kids for school so that they are successful and prepared to go to college. Therefore, I urge Governor Brown to continue his legacy of a strong education system by ensuring that our kids are set-up for success in school by investing in early education.”
Just in the last month the national conversation about the importance of early learning has elevated as President Obama reminded America why it’s important to prioritize children’s early care in his State of the Union address: “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education…30 states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait.” In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have both proposed plans to fund pre-kindergarten, while Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, who recently raised statewide preschool spending by $65 million, called early education “a human need and an economic need” with dividends that will “show up for decades to come.”