Boosting Child Care Pay

Eve Pearlman
June 22, 2001

For Hilda Manzanero, a family child care provider in Oakland, California, joining Alameda County's Child Development Corps has been a big morale boost. She's been especially inspired by Corps-sponsored workshops. "There's a lot information and energy," says Manzanero, "and I've been getting excited about all the things I can do."

The Child Development Corps, part of the Alameda County Proposition 10 plan, gives extra cash, as well as workshops, to child care workers who take additional professional courses. Manzanero used the $750 stipend she earned last year to buy child care equipment including bikes, art supplies, and drama props. She's currently taking two classes at Merritt College and hopes to earn her associate's degree soon. "It's very exciting to feel that somebody is behind you, supporting you and encouraging you to educate yourself and be better in the field," she says.

The Alameda County program is just one of several new initiatives to get more money to people who care for young children. Current dismally low wages—$7 to $10 an hour, according to a 1997 federal study—have created a staffing crisis that undermines the quality and supply of child care. "People who are well-educated and well-trained have been pushed out of the field," says child care activist Jim Stockinger, a teacher at UC Berkeley's Child Development Center.

But instead of leaving, some child care workers, like Stockinger, have joined other child care advocates and organized labor to push for measures to boost caregivers' pay. Last year in California this movement won some key victories.

  • Governor Davis signed AB 212, the Compensation and Retention Encourage Stability, or C.A.R.E.S. bill, which will provide stipends for child care workers if they take more professional courses. Advocates were disappointed that the program was limited to workers in state-funded centers. But the C.A.R.E.S. bill, which was vetoed twice before the watered-down version was signed this year, provided a model for other compensation initiatives.
  • Two counties, Alameda and San Francisco, launched local programs to put cash directly into the hands of child care workers, paying out hundreds of stipends between $500 and $6,000 to those who completed additional training.
  • California's Children and Families (Prop. 10) Commission set aside funds—$5.5 million this year and about $15 million next year—to match local funds for child care compensation and retention.
  • Some county Prop. 10 commissions have included C.A.R.E.S.-type programs in their Prop. 10 plans (see C.A.R.E.S. in the counties).

C.A.R.E.S. on the Ground
Using county Prop. 10 funds, Alameda County last year paid out stipends to 2,385 child care workers, including licensed family child care providers and teachers at centers. All eligible applicants received stipends, which ranged from $500 to $6,000, depending on education and training. Most of the stipends, according to Rory Darrah who manages the program, were at the lower end of the scale, under $2,500 dollars per teacher.

"Early childhood education classes in the area, especially at community colleges, have really filled up in the last year," reports Jennifer Kagiwada of the Center for the Child Care Workforce, which helps counties develop C.A.R.E.S.-style programs.

Across the bay in San Francisco, the city started a C.A.R.E.S. program with its own funds before Prop. 10 funds were available, although there wasn't enough money for all eligible applicants. This year the city will add county and state Prop. 10 funds.

In addition, last July San Francisco launched Wages Plus, a program to boost the earnings of child care workers who serve low-income children. The city has mapped out a pay scale, from $9 an hour for assistant teachers to $17 for site supervisors. If a teacher's wages are below these levels, the city pays the difference.

Looking Ahead
Despite these early successes, stipend programs won't be available to every child care worker. Prop. 10 money can only be used for caregivers of children up to five years old. AB 212 money can only be used for providers in state-subsidized centers. And any stipend program is only "one step toward improving compensation. It's not a be-all and end-all. We hope that in 10 years we're not still doing stipends that have nothing to do with changing wages," says Kagiwada.

The state Prop. 10 Commission, along with providing funds for stipends, has commissioned an evaluation of the stipend program by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). "C.A.R.E.S. is novel," says Sarah Neville, a child development consultant for the commission, "but it's not the final answer to the problem. Hopefully by looking at the results of this project, we can inform future policy decisions and funding."

Eventually, says Darrah, "The increase shouldn't be an add-on. It should be part of the salary and people should be paid as much as public school teachers."


C.A.R.E.S. in the Counties

In many counties groups of C.A.R.E.S. advocates—child care providers, center directors, child care planning councils and resource and referral agencies—have been working to create county-level C.A.R.E.S. programs, mostly as part of the counties' Prop. 10 plans.

  • C.A.R.E.S. in Prop. 10 plans: In addition to Alameda and San Francisco, Prop. 10 commissions in Marin, Contra Costa, Napa and Santa Clara have included C.A.R.E.S.-type programs in their plans. Some money for the Marin program will also come from the county general fund. In many of these counties the C.A.R.E.S. program will also look for funds from the state Prop. 10 Commission and AB 212.
  • Still in the works: In Sacramento and Los Angeles, Prop. 10 commissions are considering compensation programs but haven't made definite plans.
  • Still pushing for C.A.R.E.S. in Prop. 10: C.A.R.E.S. advocates are submitting proposals to Prop. 10 commissions in Solano, San Mateo, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, San Bernadino and Sonoma counties. In San Mateo, the Prop. 10 Commission turned down the first proposal so the child care resource and referral agency is writing another one.

Proposition 10

Proposition 10 was enacted by the voters of California in the November 1998 election. It created the California Children and Families First Program, which funds early childhood development programs from revenues generated by increases in the state excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Get the facts on Proposition 10 from California Children and Families First.

This article originally appeared in the March-April 2001 issue of the Children's Advocate newsmagazine, published by Action Alliance for Children.