On March 17, the Early Childhood Policy Council (ECPC) convened a special session to discuss the Council’s priorities within the 2021-22 State Budget. This meeting developed from a conversation that occurred during the February 3rd ECPC meeting about how this body could be used to influence the Governor and Legislature’s budget priorities. Following that discussion, a survey was sent out to ECPC members to elicit input on what the Council should uplift as advocacy priorities. The special session was dedicated to reviewing the results of this survey, identifying the key priority areas amongst ECPC members, and formulating next steps to provide input on the Governor’s budget proposal and distribution of the federal funds California will receive within the next few weeks.
Aressa Coley of WestEd guided the ECPC through the survey results. The results were varied and summarized into areas of clear consensus and potential consensus. First, the ECPC discussed the priorities from the survey that seemed to have the most clear consensus. These priorities included:
- Services for vulnerable populations, including migrant, homeless, children with disabilities, tribal, Dual Language Learners (DLLs), etc. to meet the needs of whole child and whole family as well as equitable access to services, particularly for families who need additional support.
- Financial support for child care providers (compensation, benefits, sick leave, etc.). Wages and compensation for all early childhood professionals should be prioritized.
After a brief discussion, Coley then shared results that had been summarized from the survey findings as areas of potential consensus. A short description was provided of each priority and the Council was asked to vote on each one individually as to whether it should be included as an ECPC priority. The list of potential priority areas included:
- COVID-19 impact and recovery
- Health, mental health, nutrition, and wellness
- Early childhood workforce professional development and career pathways
- Intergenerational family supports
- Services that support the unique needs of children and families
After the list of potential priorities was presented to the Council there was much discussion. While the general response to the list of priorities was positive, advocacy strategy considerations were raised. Some expressed that since COVID-19 recovery is already a large focus of the Governor’s budget, the ECPC should focus on other priority areas of importance that have not received as much attention from the Administration. Others thought the list was too long and shared that having so many priorities could dilute the effectiveness of the requests altogether. Several members stated that equity and combatting racism and sexism in the Early Learning and Care field need to be elevated as priorities. There was also discussion amongst ECPC members about how the Council should prioritize short and long-term requests. Lastly, several ECPC members expressed concern with the Governor’s current budget proposal and asked for the Council to have more conversations about whether the ECPC as a whole is aligned with the priorities expressed by the Administration in its original proposal.
Communicating with the Governor
Upon the conclusion of robust discussion on ECPC budget priorities, the conversation shifted to focus on how the Council should voice its priorities to the Governor and his Administration. Most felt that both a meeting with the Governor and/or his Administration, in addition to a letter, would be vital to effectively communicating the priorities of the ECPC and needs of the field. Several members of the Council volunteered to help reach out to the Governor’s office on behalf of ECPC. Since there was not a clear consensus on which priorities the Council wanted to move forward with, it was decided that a subcommittee or work group would be developed to dig further into these policy nuances. One suggestion was for the ECPC to hold listening sessions to gather more feedback from the public before moving forward.
The coordinators of the ECPC will follow up with more information about the subcommittee and next steps for engagement. The next ECPC Meeting will be hosted on June 9, 2021.