Early Edge California convened virtual meetings of its Educator Advisory Group in February 2022. The discussion focused on concerns arising from the push to transition to a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, and voicing what needs educators have to ensure they are able to continue supporting children and families in a safe and effective way. The Early Edge team also provided an overview of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-23 state budget proposal, and shared upcoming policy and advocacy opportunities.
Concerns Around the Pandemic and Transitioning to a New Normal
Educators across settings (classroom, family child care, center-based, state preschool) and across regions shared a similar concern about the impact of the pandemic on children’s growth and development. As mandates are lifted and, with it, the push to return to pre-pandemic activities and protocols, educators are now grappling with the following realities: Children who have been isolated from peers and who remain uncomfortable with social interactions; keeping up with assessment and learning expectations despite ongoing attendance issues; ensuring children’s learning environments remain clean and sanitized with limited time and supplies; and, maintaining safety and health protocols in the face of shifting policies and personal preferences.
What do educators need during this time?
There was general agreement from participants that overall access to the following are needed by educators at this time:
- Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and supplies (masks, gloves, COVID tests, etc.—not just for themselves but also for the families that they serve
- Access to sick days
- Access to health care professionals who can provide the following targeted supports:
- Mental health: Educators report feeling burned out. They would also like more social-emotional support for the children and families in their care—in particular, to help address anxiety amongst the children and the changing mask mandates.
- Nursing staff: Having on-site nurses was not something that all educators had access to at their setting.
A participant raised the importance of having had local and statewide investments (like the COVID-19 Relief and School Reopening Grants) throughout the pandemic. Ensuring educators continue to have access to supports enabled by targeted funding will reap benefits for them, for the children they serve, and for their families statewide.
The Governor’s 2022-23 Budget Proposal
The meeting also provided an opportunity for educators to discuss early childhood investments that were included in the Governor’s proposed 2022-23 state budget. Early Edge highlighted the proposed investments in Head Start, California State Preschool Programs (CSPPs), family child care, and Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK). Participants agreed that the continued expansion of subsidized child care, funding for higher rates in the Governor’s budget, and Early Edge’s support of investments in healthcare and pensions for providers are important. As the state moves towards implementation efforts around TK, educators and families can access the latest information and updates in the newly-refreshed TKCalifornia website.
Early Edge California always values the insights we receive from our Advisory Group members. We will be considering and incorporating their feedback in our work as we move forward with policy and advocacy efforts this year. Thank you to all who took the time to participate in our meetings!