Supervisor Nate Miley and his team held a “listening” session in Pleasanton Tuesday evening to gather input about what county officials are calling the “Child Care and Early Education Crisis.”
The presentation outlines what is described as a child care desert in areas along the I-880 corridor from Berkeley to Union City. It says 69 percent of Alameda County children with working parents don’t have access to a space in licensed child care or early education.
The solution proposed is to raise the sales tax by another ½-cent for 20 years that would net more than $2.8 billion to attack the problem.
The numbers are a staggering. The report claims that $17,069 is the cost of high-quality early education/child care. Compare that with what the state pays for k-12 education. Those per student numbers range from $9,325 in Dublin to about $14,500 in Berkeley or Piedmont.
The report also wants to raise child care workers’ wages to $15 per hour or about $31,200 annually. In the public schools, teacher salaries start at about $50,000 and top at more than $100k plus benefits. That’s a huge deltas between the wages for preschool instructors and what certificated teachers earn. If you take the average at about $11k, but the county is suggesting nearly more than 50 percent increase in per student funding.
It doesn’t add up.
There’s also the expectation that throwing lots of money at the issue will produce the desired outcomes. The state has been doing that with public school education under Gov. Jerry Brown. Revenues to school districts have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years as the state economy has recovered in coastal communities and state revenues have soared. The Legislature and the governor changed the funding formula in 2012 so more money went to school districts with challenging students.
Despite that increase in funding, student achievement has not improved, particularly black and Hispanic students and students from poor families.
How $2.8 billion is going to move the meter in early education is an open question that voters must consider carefully. Government’s track record is poor, to be charitable.
They also might want to consider the veracity of the claims. I don’t debate that reading to a child is a good practice. However, some well-designed studies have called into question the assumption that two years of preschool will result in better outcomes in the early grades. Others have shown that preschool has resulted in better outcomes in the early grades, particularly for students living in low-income families.
Pick your study.
Supervisor Miley opened the meeting talking about the importance of affordable childcare and preschool, according to his staff member, Erin Armstrong. He described it as part of the social safety net that is important given the high cost of living in the Bay Area. About a dozen citizens attended the meeting.
When it comes to your pocketbook, the question becomes priorities. It’s hard to argue against helping kids, but Alameda County residents already pay one of the highest sales taxes in the state. It’s 9.75 percent in five cities, including Newark, so you may want to skip the Newpark mall or auto mall and save ½ cent on the sales tax.
Here in Pleasanton, we pay 9.25 percent. That’s 2 percent more than the state tax with 1 percent going to transportation improvements and operations; ½ cent to the county hospital system and local health care; and ½-cent to BART operations. BART double dips because it also receives money from the 1-cent sales tax.
The county’s presentation notes that polling shows 73 percent of voters would support the measure. If it goes on the ballot next June, it will take a two-thirds majority vote to raise the tax.
To check out the powerpoint, click here