By Richard A. Rojas-Rangel
and Estrella Zarate-Pacheco
Supporters of a tax measure to strengthen child care services in Monterey County needed more than 11,600 signatures to place it on the ballot — a feat that ordinarily would be difficult to achieve in a short amount of time.
But this week, supporters of the county’s Safe, Affordable, Quality Child Care Act celebrated not just gathering of more than 21,000 signatures in less than three months, but the official endorsement of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, which approved its placing it on the ballot on July 12. The measure, which would provide supplemental funding for child care by adding an additional parcel tax of $49 per year, will be decided by local voters this November and was officially endorsed by the supervisors Tuesday.
“It’s an initiative that will assist a lot of families and a lot of children to have access to not only child care but early childhood education,” said Esmeralda Montenegro Owen, campaign manager of the Child Care Act, outside the county administrative office after a hearing two weeks ago. “It’s key because … as you know at 5 years, their brains have been developed, and we want all the children to have the access to early childhood education so they are ready for school.”
Some of the local organizations supporting this initiative include Mujeres en Accion, Building Healthy Communities Monterey County, the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Monterey County Hospitality Association, LULAC, COPA, Hartnell College and others.
Volunteers have gathered signatures in front of grocery stores, from their neighborhoods and from family and friends in the effort.
Community members spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting to praise the measure, including Pricilla Amao, the mother of a 4-year-old girl and a member of Mujeres en Accion. She told of the hardship in finding safe, affordable, and reliable child care, and how parents shouldn’t have to “worry about the quality of care their child is receiving while they are at work.” Amao feels the initiative will support parents’ access to child care programs.
Supervisor Luis Alejo mentioned that this act will “help thousands of families in Monterey County” and “is good for the community at large.” Alejo said he is thankful that the community leaders have been advocating for this initiative.
Francine Rodd, executive director of the early childhood advocacy nonprofit First 5 Monterey County, was also among those celebrating.
“There’s a lack of childcare. There’s only licensed childcare for 26% of our children ages 0 to 4 in our county,” said Rodd. “Today they accepted the certification and officially placed it on the ballot.”
The Child Care Act envisions a goal where mothers and families alike can support their children with affordable and quality child care. In a 2018 study by Washington Center for Equitable growth, it was noted that many low-income and ethnic background families could not provide quality child care that would promote children’s growth and development.
Supporters of the initiative say many of these inequalities come from racial and ethnic issues that expand across a variety of programs such as housing, education, food, or healthcare. Support for the Child Care Act would help negate these negative effects, and in addition, help expand the socioeconomic status of not just the residents of Monterey Bay, but California as a whole.
“It mainly helped me because it’s important for children to have quality early learning,” said Nancy Ternero, in Spanish. Ternero is a mother of four. “That’s where the bases are established for children to develop in a healthy environment.”
Photo by Carlos Rene Castro | Supporters watch Board of Supervisors hearing
Richard A. Rojas-Rangel and Estrella Zarate-Pacheco were participants in Voices of Monterey Bay’s annual Young Voices Media Project.
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