Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan's August 26, 2021, E-Blast
Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao, Council Member Carroll Fife, and I, in coordination with extensive community support, are working to demand an equitable reopening of Head Start child care centers in Oakland’s most underserved communities at the September 1, 2021, Special City Council Meeting. Oakland community members put out an urgent statement demanding the protection of vitally needed services provided by the Head Start Centers. My fellow Council members and I, have released an action plan to stop the planned closures of the Head Start programs, which if allowed to close, will disproportionately impact our hardest-hit communities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, working mothers have been the most impacted by cuts to the workforce resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The closures of schools and childcare centers created a scarcity in childcare providers causing childcare costs to reach an all-time high in 2020. As California is reopening, mothers are finding it harder to rejoin the workforce due to the lack of affordable childcare. This group of Oakland leadership are deeply concerned with the lack of equity in the City Administration’s plan to close child care centers, as it is inequitable. They plan to close the Arroyo Viejo, Franklin, and Tassafaronga centers, all located in Oakland’s most underserved communities. The planned closures disproportionately aim cuts at Black people, and worsen suffering in Oakland’s hardest-hit communities, low-income families, and people of color. The planned cuts also involve inequitable layoffs of the workers, and undermine our community’s economic recovery at a precarious time.
We have submitted our proposal, to amend the budget to save the Head Start centers, with urgency for the Special Council meeting of September 1, 2021. The loss of these Head Start centers is causing an urgent crisis in service, violates our equity principles and has prioritized further cuts of service to Black community members. The proposed cut threatens our social cohesion in this struggling economy, as struggling workers can’t go to jobs if their child care is taken away and children lose the stability of early learning centers. If the City Council does not take action, these Head Start Centers would close in September, 2021.
We must prioritize equity in our City’s COVID-19 recovery plan, and allowing our most impacted communities to have vitally needed services is a high priority. Head Start is an important program which helps children, with lifelong positive impacts on their future, and ensures access to economic recovery for struggling working parents. The Administration’s plan to close these needed centers and layoff these essential workers, while hiding the information from the Council and the public for months, is inappropriate. We need to provide equity and transparency, and protect vital services for our communities. I am calling on everyone involved to help pass this plan to save Head Start, to support providing these services for all of Oakland’s communities.
“Our most vulnerable children and families in Oakland must be supported. The Franklin Head Start Center serves a diverse community in District 2, from the Chinatown to Eastlake to San Antonio neighborhoods, and I am fighting to protect the services for these families and the jobs for the workers caring for our children.” Nikki Fortunato Bas, Council President and District 2 Representative.
"Robust investment in Head Start is investment in our future; it is long-term public safety planning; it is the right thing to do. Our local government cannot allow Head Start to fail. To do so would be to continue the practice of State-sanctioned discrimination that creates new racialized disparities and perpetuates existing ones. It is our responsibility to intervene to ensure that every single frontline worker caring for families and young people in our Head Start centers be able to keep their jobs. I am disheartened to find out that this urgent matter has been brewing for months and has only now come to the attention of the city's elected leaders as a crisis to fix. As a working-class Black woman, like many of our Head Start providers, I have lived experience in needing access to affordable childcare. And as an elected official, I am committed to doing what it takes to keep our centers open, funded and accessible to the families who need them most.” Carroll Fife, Council Member District 3.
“Every parent knows the first five years of a child’s development have an enormous impact on the adult they will become. Head Start is a vital resource to the children and parents that need support. One of my top priorities is making sure every child in Oakland has a chance to succeed. I will continue to fight to make sure Oakland Head Start is fully funded, and Oakland children are not forgotten.” Sheng Thao, Council President Pro Tempore and District 4 Representative.