COUNCIL PRESIDENT PRO TEM SHENG THAO’S STATEMENT REGARDING
SAVING OAKLAND HEAD START CENTERS
Brandon Harami, Council Aide to
Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao
Oakland, CA— Today the City Council voted unanimously to SAVE three Head Start centers that were identified by City Staff to be closed after the city lost sizable federal funding due to not meeting the benchmarks set forth by the Federal grantor. As a symptom of not meeting the complete benchmarks, a trigger for the City of Oakland to reapply for the grants for Head Start was set off. In January of 2021, city staff applied for the full amount of $17.8 Million, however, the city was granted only $12.2 Million, giving the latter portion of the $17.8 Million to a party that historically received funding from the City of Oakland for Head Start programming.
Community members raised concerns regarding pending changes to the Oakland Head Start program after workers were notified of potential site closures and layoffs. These massive changes by the City Administration were of great concern to community members as Oakland Head Start offers free early childhood education and family services to low-income Oakland residents and Head Start child care workers have a long history of providing excellent care.
In response to this pending crisis and in partnership with community groups, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao, and Councilmember Carroll Fife proposed a budget amendment that will allocate $1.836 million from the General Purpose Fund to the Head Start Program to prevent the closure of the Franklin, Arroyo Viejo, and Tassafaronga Head Start Centers and worker layoffs at these sites.
“Every parent knows the first five years of a child’s development have an enormous impact on their future, and that these sensitive years are the building blocks for their success. Head Start is a vital resource to the children and parents, and as a single mother who utilized and depended on Head Start for my own child, it was THE factor between being homeless or housed, being able to put food on the table or not, and ensuring that my son was prepared for kindergarten, both emotionally and academically. It continues to be a top priority for me to make sure every child in Oakland has a chance to succeed. This is why I fought for and won funding to fund a feasibility study to create a Department of Children, Youth, and Families within the City of Oakland. The goal of the department is to connect, streamline and have full focus on the whole family, including all resources for our youth, families and seniors. I will continue to fight to make sure Oakland Head Start is fully funded, and Oakland children are not forgotten and I urge my colleagues on the Council, the Mayor, the City Administrator, and the community to join us in fighting for our kids who are our future.
“I am disappointed that our Oakland Head Start families have been put in this predicament. It is not simply a “reshuffling” of resources and closing of “only” a few centers. This reshuffling and closure of sites CREATES instability for our already marginalized families, it creates unnecessary barriers and stress to those who do not have the capacity and time to figure out what plan B is going to be, because they depend on Head Start to give quality care for our Oakland children so that they can provide for their families. And for our Head Start employees, this is their job that is the pathway for their families as well, in order to provide for stability and success. The city can do more, and that’s exactly what me and my colleagues Council President Bas, Vice Mayor Kaplan and Councilmember Fife did. We thought outside of the box to find funding to close this gap so that our children and our families would not be impacted because the city lost its full funding due to not successfully reaching the benchmarks that needed to be reached; which we must insist on stronger oversight and consistent reporting out to the full City Council.”