Bay Area parents, leaders and lawmakers discuss affordable 'child care crisis'

A Bay Area official says 600 child care businesses closed down in Santa Clara County.

Lauren Martinez Image
Monday, September 11, 2023
Bay Area lawmakers on affordable 'child care crisis'
Whether you are a parent or not, a situation being described as a childcare crisis will impact everyone, officials say.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- Whether you are a parent or not, a situation being described as a childcare crisis will impact everyone, officials say.

On Friday, Representative Ro Khanna held an affordable child care roundtable with local leaders and parents because at the end of this month - federal COVID-19 relief funding for providers ends.

Already, Khanna says 600 child care businesses closed down in Santa Clara County.

President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said child care is not a women's issue.

"We all of us need to make the case to people who don't have children and frankly to people who don't like children that a publicly funded high quality child care system benefits all of us. Employers will retain employees, see higher productivity, more housing secure- particularly poignant in this community," Ellenberg said.

She provided an update on the current situation for the county.

"Children with state funded vouchers in Santa Clara County, nearly 2,000 children are holding vouchers, they are able to pay to pay for a slot but they are no available slots," Ellenberg said.

She said the board voted a few months ago and created an infrastructure grant program with ARPA dollars where $15 million will soon be released that can be used for reopening facilities that have closed during the pandemic.

"I'm using the word facilities very generically to cover center-based care and home-based care," Ellenberg said.

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She said a press conference will be held at Educare on Wednesday at 10 a.m. where more details will be provided.

During the discussion daycare provider Manmeet Setie was emotional because even though there are thousands of children on a state waitlist - her home daycare and her daycare center are struggling to get more kids enrolled.

"I am going to only have five kids and with five kids how am I going to pay the rent? How am I going to pay the teachers," Setie said.

Setie invested her savings into opening her center and learned everything on her own.

"The biggest concern is right now because of this universal pre-school and kindergarten we feel like we are not being put on the table," Setie said.

One of the panelist, Gabriella Chavez-Lopez, the Executive Director for Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley said child care should be thought of as an equity conversation.

"For Latinas it's 33.5 cents on the dollar it's the most acute wage equity that exists in the nation. Latinas are at the bottom of the totem pole we're the fastest growing workforce in this country and so if we don't figure this out and we don't center this conversation in legislation with an equity framework thinking about those most impacted and those most acutely impacted it has to start in Silicon Valley," Chavez-Lopez said.

The average cost of child care in the US is $10,000 per year. In California, that number is $13,000.

Santa Clara Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said up that to $20,000 in the Bay Area.

That's more than in-state UC tuition estimated at $14,436.

San Jose resident Andre Oliveira has a six-year-old daughter in first grade. He works the graveyard shift as a janitor at a local hospital. He lives with his in-laws but since they're aging and there's no affordable after school care, he'll have to remain working graveyard.

"I will say it's one of the many reasons why maybe we didn't go for a second child. It was due to the fact that my in-laws due to old age will not be able take care of another grandson or granddaughter," Oliveira said.

MORE: Some Bay Area child care centers close due to lack of guidance, funding for COVID test kits

Representative Khanna is introducing a bipartisan bill to make child care $10 per day or less while guaranteeing good wages for child care workers.

"We need extension of funding, it's pro-family, it's pro-jobs, it's pro-business. This is a bipartisan issue - it's not just a women's rights issue, it is a universal issue that all Americans should care about," Khanna said.

Khanna is not the only lawmaker introducing legislation for affordable child care.

"You can't be confident with congress these day on anything, but I am hopeful. I am hopeful that if people mobilize members of congress hear about this from their constituents that people will realize we can't forsake America's kids," Khanna said.

Panelist Mary Ignatius, Executive Director for Parent Voices, said if you focus on one part of the problem things keep falling and there needs to be collective solutions.

"I think child care providers, early educators are brain architects, and you know we have to talk about them like that. You know we have architects who build homes from the bottom up- we have early educators building brains from the bottom up and if you know we could just reframe how we talk about this work and who the caregivers are I feel like we can shift the narrative around what they deserve because the most formative years are happening," Ignatius said.

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