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Ann O'Leary: Lack of child care in CA threatens economy

Limited child care options in California are putting too many of our children at a disadvantage, which ultimately hurts our economy.  House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Service Employees International Union, hosted a rally in San Francisco today, emphasizing the need for change in California's child care system. Ann O'Leary, Director of Next Generation's Children & Families Program gave the following remarks:

In 1971, the year I was born, President Richard Nixon famously declared that universal child care would have “family-weakening implications” as he wielded his veto pen to block a universal child care bill passed by Congress. 

We may look back on this moment with disbelief, but at the time – it really was a closer call for America with real divisions about whether women should work outside the home.  Today, those conversations may still occur among the elite, but nearly everyone else is working.  Today, over 70 percent of families are headed by two working parents or a single working parent – compared to under 40 percent in the early 1970s. 

Unfortunately, President Nixon’s veto of universal child care became the last best chance for decades for the federal government to support working moms and dads trying to raise their children and earn a living at the same time.

We are here today because today is FINALLY our moment to make universal child care and early childhood education a reality.  Leader Pelosi and Congressman George Miller are on a mission.  The President is using his bullypulpit to push for change.  But it is up to us to make it happen.   And it will truly take all of us.

Why is this so important?

  • Mothers and fathers cannot lead and succeed in the workplace without it.  Without stable, reliable high-quality child care, you are truly just one child care crisis away from losing your job, let alone that promotion you’ve been working so hard to get that will bring more income to your family.
  • Our children need and deserve it and our economy depends on it.  Children who are given the opportunity to participate in high-quality early childhood education have better literacy, language and numeracy skills than those who aren’t given the opportunity.  Just consider this—in California, the majority of our children are Hispanic.  Yet, we are providing a disservice to the Hispanic community and to our future when we see gaps in educational performance at the 4th grade level showing whites with 57 percent math proficiency and Hispanics with only 17 percent math proficiency.  Providing an early start to a solid education does pay off and we need to make it a reality here in California.

How can we do it?

  • Make the case that early childhood matters.  We’ve got to bring the public along.  That is what my organization, Next Generation, will be doing as we focus our Too Small to Fail campaign like a laser on the impacts this investment would have on our future.  I urge you to join us on Facebook and Twitter to be part of the conversation.
  • Make real investments. The federal government will need to play a role, but we also need greater commitments at the state level and we need private sector investments.
  • Work together. I am sick and tired of the divisions between women’s groups and children’s groups, between the 0-3 crowd and the 3-4 year old crowd, between those who want to focus on improving child care quality versus those who want to focus solely on access. We need it all and we won’t have a long-term agenda for change unless we work together.

I sincerely thank Speaker Pelosi and the SEIU for their leadership on these issues and look forward to working together across our great community, our great state, and our great Nation to make universal child care a reality for working parents and for the next generation.

- Ann O'Leary

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