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Early Childhood Advocates Eagerly Await Newsom Administration

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Toddlers eat dinner at Palcare in Burlingame. (Katie Orr/KQED)

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has said he’ll make the needs of California children a priority. That has early childhood care and education advocates excited, and there are hopes that Newsom’s administration will be more proactive than his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown.

One possible course of action is modernizing California's child care system. Palcare in Burlingame is one of the rare child care centers that offers extended hours. It’s open until 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday and is considered a model center by some in the field.

Dr. Jonathan Bradley picks up his 22-month-old son Leo from Palcare Childcare in Burlingame, CA
Dr. Jonathan Bradley picks up his 22-month-old son, Leo, from Palcare in Burlingame. (Katie Orr/KQED)

On a recent evening around 6 p.m., anesthesiologist Jonathan Bradley arrived to pick up his 22-month-old son, Leo. Bradley said the extended care hours have been instrumental for his family.

"My wife works full time and, for me, my schedule is very erratic, including weekends and overnights," he said. "It's definitely been a game changer for us."

Mom Mari Duck feels the same way. She's an air traffic controller at nearby San Francisco International Airport, and her 15-month-old daughter, Emerald, is enrolled in Palcare.

"I have a very nontraditional schedule. For example, tonight I'm working until 9:30 at night," she said. "So, to be able to not disrupt my daughter's schedule too much, and have her be at a daycare where she knows all the teachers and can stay there late while I'm at work, really helps.”

Palcare is trying to meet a massive need for child care in the community. The organization says the wait list for its infant care program is about three years long.

The problem isn't limited to the Bay Area. Finding any care can be a struggle for families. A report from kidsdata.org shows just a quarter of California kids have access to licensed child care in the state.

Ted Lempert, with the advocacy group Children Now, said early childhood programs were cut dramatically during the Great Recession under Brown, who he said wasn't very active on child care issues.


"Jerry Brown did a lot of good things as governor, but early childhood was not one of his priorities," said Lempert. "Quite frankly, the Legislature really had to step up and push him to invest in early childhood."

But with Newsom, who has four young children, taking over, Lempert expects there to be a focus on building programs back up.

“He knows that to do this right it will cost money," Lempert said. "We're not going to be able to do it all in one year, two years and four years. But part of leadership is setting a goal, and that's what we've been lacking in this state.”

Erin Gabel, with First 5 California, said the state needs to address the inadequate reimbursement rates for child care providers and modernize its system.

“California has this incredible opportunity to really think about the twin goals (it's) had for a very long time," she said. "Which is to support working families' needs and child development and early learning and brain development in a child care setting.”

Advocates expect to see a lot of legislation around early childhood in 2019 as Newsom kicks off his term, including a push to unionize child care workers.

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