How Did Oregon’s Children Fare in this Election?

How Did Oregon’s Children Fare in this Election?

While national politics and the presidential election have consumed the lion’s share of voter attention these last few days, Oregon’s well established vote-by-mail process offers more concrete outcomes for local races and ballot measures. Here’s a round up of results from those we’ve been watching closely: 

 

In Multnomah County, a Win for Preschool

 

Measure 26-214, better known as the Preschool for All ballot measure in Multnomah County has passed, with 64.2 percent of voters approving, and 35.8 percent of voters against. Children’s Institute endorsed the measure and served on the task force created to develop it. Revenue will be raised through an income tax on high earners with a plan to provide tuition-free preschool for all 3- and 4-year old children in the county by 2030. 

The measure is unique in that it prioritizes access for children in BIPOC communities and includes important provisions to support racial equity in early learning. The measure prohibits programs from suspension or expulsion of children, offers anti-bias training and professional development for providers, and increases mental and behavioral health support for providers and families. It also raises the wages of early educators to achieve parity with Kindergarten teachers and guarantees a wage of $18 an hour for classroom assistants. 

preschool for all

Listen to CI’s podcast with Jessica Vega Pederson on Preschool for All

Tobacco Tax Passes Handily

 

Children’s Institute also endorsed Oregon Ballot Measure 108, which significantly increases taxes on tobacco and e-cigarette products. Revenue from the tax goes to medical and healthcare-assistance programs, including mental health services, tribal health programming and other tobacco and nicotine harm reduction efforts. The measure was strongly supported by voters, with 66.7 percent in favor and 33.3 percent against.

 

Clackamas Children’s Safety Levy Defeated

 

An effort to improve services for neglected and abused children in Clackamas County has failed, with 45.6 percent of voters in favor and 54.4 percent voting against Measure 3-564. The measure sought to raise $7.9 million dollars per year, or $40 million over five years, through a property tax of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.  

 

Across the State, Strong Support for Schools 

 

Oregon voters also demonstrated strong support for local school bonds and local option levies. An incredible 14 of 17 such efforts to raise funds this year have passed, from tiny Perrydale School District near Amity, Oregon with a successful bid to raise $3 million for its 330 students, to a whopping $1.2 billion bond measure for Portland Public Schools that passed with 75 percent of voter approval.

 

National Wins May Bode Well for Child Care

 

Oregon’s congressional delegation stays mostly intact with the exception of District 2, where Cliff Bentz replaces longtime Rep. Greg Walden who did not run for re-election. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Pete Defazio and Kurt Schrader keep their seats. 

A number of Oregon’s elected representatives have introduced or backed pro-child and family legislation in recent years, most notably, Rep. Bonamici who has been particularly active on child care issues. That’s hopeful news for children’s advocates who want to see progress on federal legislation like the $50 billion Child Care is Essential Act and the Heroes act, a multi-trillion COVID-19 relief bill. 

Podcast: Hadiyah Miller, Black Child Development PDX

Podcast: Hadiyah Miller, Black Child Development PDX

In this week’s episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Hadiyah Miller, president of the Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children (ORAEYC) and chairperson of Black Child Development PDX, about combating the expulsion and suspension of Black children in early learning.

Guest

Hadiyah Miller is the current president of the ORAEYC and works as the African American Family Childcare Network Coordinator at Childcare Resource and Referral of Multnomah County. She also serves as the early childhood chair of Black Child Development PDX.  

Summary Miller shares how Black Child Development PDX connects community members, Black leaders, and allies to change outcomes for young Black children in Portland. She explains that its present focus is on preventing the expulsion and suspension of Black children in early learning. This work is being done by elevating the Black experience and Black voices in the Legislature, and by helping teachers to identify and fight implicit bias so they can begin to shift how they respond to Black children. 

Background

Research has shown that Black children make up 18 percent of preschoolers, but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. Different standards exist in schools for white children, and implicit bias plays a role in teachers responses to the actions of Black children.

Kids who are suspended or expelled from school are more likely to drop out, and those dropouts are more likely to end up with criminal records. This is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Get Involved

ORAEYC will be hosting two different communities of practices starting in December 2020. These events will be open to anyone who is interested in this relationship-based learning experience focused on equity and social justice. To learn more, visit their page here.

Schools Push for Equity Against Forces of Pandemic

Schools Push for Equity Against Forces of Pandemic

After the pandemic closed Oregon schools this spring, teacher Nicole Odom and her assistants at McKay Elementary in Beaverton depended on parental help to remotely teach their preschoolers.

They prepared video lessons, learning activities, songs and Zoom sessions, all of which required help from parents. Some parents, however, worked outside the home, and only half of the 36 students in Odom’s two half-day classes showed up for Zoom video sessions.

“There were kids we would see or not see on Zoom,” she says. Her team looked for other ways to reach students who didn’t show. But whatever they did required parental help.

“Many parents were dealing with jobs, both remotely or in person, as well as many other significant challenges,” she says.

One of the powers of preschool is to reduce inequalities and prevent an achievement gap between less advantaged children and those with more support. The pandemic, however, is forcing preschoolers to get some or all of their learning at home, where learning opportunities are unequal, says Steven Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) in New Jersey.

“The pandemic has thrown us backwards,” he told reporters in a July webinar organized by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

Among the scores of challenges facing schools as they open in a pandemic this fall is how to ensure all children get an equal shot at quality education, no matter their zip code, race or household wealth. State guidelines require schools to make their back-to-school plans through an “equity lens” with heightened attention to disadvantaged students.

COVID-19 already has put children of color and low-income homes at a disadvantage by disproportionately infecting their parents, who are more likely to work in risky jobs such as driving buses, processing food or caring for the elderly, says Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education.

“That’s another trauma that some children are going through that others are not,” he says.

 

Social interaction vital

Eighty-five percent of the parents in the small Yoncalla School District 45 miles south of Eugene want to send their children back to school this fall. District leaders want that too, says Superintendent Brian Berry, but if virus cases continue to climb in Douglas County, it may have to open with distance learning. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared schools must not allow students into classrooms until the statewide positive COVID-19 testing rate is at or below 5 percent for three weeks in a row.

Megan Barber, Yoncalla Elementary’s preschool teacher, is making plans to teach her students in person, possibly in smaller groups. She may wear a mask, keep students distanced, clean thoroughly and take other precautions.

If she must teach them remotely, she’ll face bigger challenges. Low-income parents, a majority in Yoncalla and many Oregon districts, often are single and working outside their homes. They cannot always help teachers provide young children lessons, activities and vital social interaction. Some lack adequate computers and internet connections.

More affluent parents, on the other hand, are more often able to work at home and help teach their children. Some groups of parents this summer already have teamed up to hire tutors who will teach their children in what they’re calling pandemic pods.

A nationwide survey by NIEER shows these home inequities played out among preschoolers last spring. Efforts to serve preschool children were “a disaster,” says Barnett. “No one was prepared.”

The survey of a representative sample of 1,000 parents showed that while most of their 3-to-5 year old children received some remote educational support when schools closed, less than half continued to do so within two months. Of those who did continue, most participated less than once a week in preschool activities.

What’s more, most young children with disabilities experienced loss of services required by their Individual Education Plans, Barnett says.

Darcy Jeffs and Kevin Wolpoff’s son, Miles. Special education students like Miles, who is autistic, are facing additional barriers to learning due to the pandemic. 

Darcy Jeffs and Kevin Wolpoff live in Florence on Oregon’s coast, where Darcy can be at home for their son, Miles. But Miles, 6, is autistic and needs services harder to get in a pandemic.

Before COVID-19 arrived, the parents sent Miles to The Child Center, a non-profit in Eugene, for highly specialized therapy six hours a day, five days a week. The pandemic reduced that comprehensive schedule to six hours of distance teletherapy per week. Jeffs received training to help fill the gaps with home strategies.  Still, she says, “Without in-person access to his prescribed schedule, we were experiencing setbacks.”

Now the couple, like most parents, is weighing what to do this fall. They hoped to send Miles to kindergarten with a Child Center therapist, but the public school districts in their area will not allow that. Besides, most plan only distance learning. Miles will return to The Child Center late August, and one private school that plans to physically open might have room for him and his therapist. But these options risk exposing him to the virus.

“There are no easy decisions,” says Jeffs. “We face a health risk on either side. Do we risk exposure or losing access to a very necessary therapy for our son?”

After schools shut down in Drain, a small town near Yoncalla, Jessilyn and Nathan Whiteman received no special education services for their son, Christopher, who has autism spectrum disorder. A private speech therapist in Eugene provided Christopher some service on Zoom. The Whitemans hope Christopher can attend kindergarten in person this fall.

“Christopher is already behind,” says Whiteman, “and we are doing what we can at home. But he needs help from a special education teacher. When his academics are behind it also affects him socially and emotionally.”

Losing ground

Ericka Guynes, principal at Earl Boyles Elementary in Southeast Portland, is concerned her youngest students already have lost ground after the spring closure.

“It is possible they may have lost a year of learning,” Guynes says.

Earl Boyles offers half-day public preschool classes that enroll a total 102 children and, along with Yoncalla Elementary, is a partner in the Children’s Institute’s Early Works program.

Another inequity is inherent in Oregon’s patchwork of early education programs, which have never been open to all children. The state’s public preschool programs and the federal Head Start programs serve less than two thirds of the low-income children who qualify. And private programs have become increasingly out of reach for low- and middle-income families. The state provides child care subsidies for only 15 percent of the low-income families that qualify. Parents pay for 72 percent of all funding for early care and education and thousands of them have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has “exposed a fundamental and underlying challenge of the financial mechanism for supporting early childhood education,” says David Mandell, policy and research director for the Oregon Early Learning Division.

So even if Oregon’s preschools are able to open this fall, they will open only for a fraction of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds. And if those students are taught remotely, the quality of their education will be lower, says Barnett, with learning losses “much deeper in things like language, math and social/emotional development.”  This deficit could have negative effects on children through life, he says.

Early education has a “profound impact on children’s development and their acquisition of social-emotional, language and cognitive skills, all of which are critical to their school and life success,” says an Early Learning Division report to the Oregon Legislature last December.

 

Reducing inequities

Oregon state guidelines emphasize schools must keep all students from falling behind whether they are disabled, learning English, homeless, in foster care, living in poverty or with parents who must leave home to work.

“It is not enough to make statements about equity without following those statements with concrete actions,” the guidelines say. The state recommends schools train staff on culturally responsive, anti-bias teaching; hire more diverse teachers; provide more individualized and project-based instruction; and help diverse students connect across cultures. Schools are urged to explicitly address systemic racial injustice exposed by the nation’s massive Black Lives Matter movement.

“Create learning opportunities that address white privilege and the dismantling of white supremacy,” the state says.

Education leaders say they will work to get more resources and support to the children who need it most. The state, for example, needs to steer emergency federal money for child care support to low-income communities where it always has been scarce, says Mandell. Oregon’s 275,000 children under six comprise its most diverse population sector, with one in four speaking a language other than English at home.

The Legislature created the Early Childhood Equity Fund last year to provide about $10 million a year in grants for parenting education, early literacy, native language preservation and other programs aimed at closing opportunity gaps for historically underserved families.

Many districts, including Beaverton, acted last spring to close digital divides by providing computers and WiFi hot spots to families without Internet connections. Salem School District teachers connected with 95 percent of their students through distance learning, says Gill.

ode pandemic equity guidance

ODE’s companion guidance on equity works with districts, in part, to align federal and state requirements for the education of students furthest from opportunity. (Click image to view)

The federal government has given Oregon schools $115 million in pandemic relief money through the Cares Act, and they can use that money for distance learning technology. The state also received another $28 million to improve remote connections with computers, broadband and adult training.

Schools also can use their Cares Act money to sanitize facilities, organize long-term closures, and reduce inequities for children who are disabled, in low-income or minority households, English learners, homeless or in foster care.

Some districts are exploring ways to bring their youngest children in grades two and below into school a few times a week for socializing and “short bursts of instruction around numeracy and literacy,” says Gill. 

Educators also may need to provide at least some services to children with disabilities in person. Schools will need to determine what can be provided online and what must be provided one-on-one, says Guynes, principal of Earl Boyles. 

In its latest version of guidelines, released last week, the state told districts that they should prioritize in-person instruction for special education students, English language learners and other groups, even if county-wide cases are not low enough to allow a return for all students to the classroom.

Beaverton School District wants to address disparities resulting from race, poverty, language and other barriers, says Superintendent Don Grotting.

“We’re trying to look through our equity lens and make sure we come through with plans to address disparities.” Under COVID-19, he adds, those disparities are “growing wider and wider.”

Child Care Reopen Survey Reflects Concern for Health, Financial Instability

Child Care Reopen Survey Reflects Concern for Health, Financial Instability

Oregon’s child care providers are feeling strong financial pressure to reopen, but are unsure of their ability to effectively implement health, safety, and other requirements outlined by the state.

That’s according to more than 1,600 providers who responded to a survey conducted in April by Oregon’s Early Learning Division. The ELD says that the responses helped to update standards for child care in mid-May, and promises more detailed analysis and additional surveys to come.

More than half of providers responding to the survey were open, mostly as emergency care providers (62 percent).

Respondents represented a wide range of setting types, demographic and geographic backgrounds.

In addition to English, 128 respondents took the survey in Spanish and 16 took the survey in Russian. There were no respondents in the other languages offered (Vietnamese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese).

eld survey child care 5.20

Provider representation by zip code. Source: ELD

Social Distancing Requirement Considered Impossible

Licensed and regulated child care in Oregon can take many forms, from smaller, home-based settings to large, center-type facilities. Regardless of setting type, providers overwhelmingly cited the ability to maintain six feet of social distance as one of the most difficult requirements to implement.

A number of providers felt that doing so with infants and young children was a practical impossibility. Maintaining stable groups of 10 or fewer is also very difficult for all but those registered as family providers, who usually care for just a small number of children.

 

Source: ELD

Reopening Barriers

Health and safety concerns are the biggest barrier to reopening for respondents who are not currently operating, presumably due to COVID-19 related issues (49 percent). Providers expressed concern about their ability to keep themselves, their staff, and the children under their care healthy without a significant reduction in cases or a widely-available vaccine. Some did not feel it would be safe to reopen until the coronavirus is eliminated and others said that reopening was not an option due to their own or family members’ health status.

Source: ELD

Financial Support Needed

The cost of operating with lower or limited enrollment was the second most-cited barrier, especially for providers who usually serve larger numbers of children. All types of providers felt that financial stabilization or tuition replacement assistance will be necessary to reopen. Many providers who are currently operating said that they are doing so at a financial loss or barely covering costs. Offering hazard (recognition) pay for staff and additional training for staff was also named as a top priority.  

The full report is here and includes more detailed information about providers’ responses and comments on the survey’s open-ended questions.

supports to reopen child care

Source: ELD

Child Care Crisis Not Limited to Oregon

Oregon’s survey results echo those from similar surveys conducted in other states like CaliforniaNew Jersey, and Nebraska.

In addition to state-level efforts to support child care, there is increasing awareness that federal investment is necessary to keep the child care industry afloat.

Oregon Representative Suzanne Bonamici, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Senator Ron Wyden have called for $50 billion in emergency funding for child care in the next coronavirus stimulus package. 

 

Bonamici Report: Child  Care in Crisis

Bonamici Report: Child Care in Crisis

What We’re Reading

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici has issued a report on the state of child care in Oregon and across the nation. “Child Care in Crisis: Solutions to Support Working Families, Children and Educators,” is informed by conversations with providers, early childhood educators, and parents. Their stories illustrate in clear terms that healthy child care infrastructure is essential.

As our country grapples with systemic racism and ongoing gaps in access to opportunity, Bonamici’s report places child care issues squarely in that context:

“Fixing the child care system is also an issue of racial justice. The child care workforce is overwhelmingly women, and predominantly women of color. We must make sure child care providers and early childhood educators are paid a living wage that reflects the value of their highly-skilled work. Along with other barriers, families of color face income gaps that make quality child care even less affordable. Black, Indigenous, and other children of color are more likely to be in the least supported child care settings, and many child care settings are segregated by race. Resources must be distributed in a way that focuses on equity and on dismantling the systemic underinvestment in Black, Indigenous, and other families and workers of color.”

The report describes the pre-COVID child care crisis in Oregon, the ways the pandemic has exacerbated this crisis and created new problems, policy efforts to stabilize the industry during the pandemic, and a proposed path forward, including specific legislative actions to increase resources for families and the child care workforce.

An Existing Child Care Crisis in Oregon

Bonamici’s report says that the existing child care crisis in our state boils down to three main issues:

There is a vast, unmet need for high-quality, affordable child care.

“Early childhood education fosters children’s social and emotional development and prepares them to thrive in school and throughout life. Investment in early learning, including quality child care, is also good for the economy because it allows parents to work, seek work, or participate in their own educational advancement, while knowing their children are safe and learning. Unfortunately, there is more need than available care. According to the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences, all 36 counties in Oregon were child care deserts for infants and toddlers before the pandemic, with only one child care slot for every three children who need care. Families in rural areas face even more scarcity. Access to affordable, high quality child care tends to be hardest for low-income families and families of color.”

Available child care comes at a high cost to families.

“Working families in Oregon pay some of the highest child care costs in the country. Child care can cost as much as, or more than, college. According to research by Child Care Aware, infant care in a center in Oregon averages $13,518 per year compared to $10,610 for in-state college tuition at a public college. In the Portland Metro area families are paying upwards of $21,000 per year for center-based infant care.”

“Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that no more than 7 percent of household income go toward child care payments, the average in Oregon is 14.7 percent for preschool and 18 percent for infant and toddler care. This burden is much higher for low-income families.”

Compensation and benefits for early childhood educators are insufficient.

“The quality of a child care program depends on the quality of the staff. Increasingly, child care programs require advanced degrees and credentials to reflect the science and skills required of this workforce. Yet while education and training requirements have increased, wages have remained stagnant.”

“[Child care providers] are paid near-poverty wages, and nearly half are eligible for public assistance. In Oregon the average annual income of early childhood educators is $26,740, and nationwide they are paid on average $10.72 an hour. Additionally, child care providers and early childhood educators often lack some of the same benefits afforded to other workers, such as paid vacation time and health care. This disproportionately affects women and women of color, who make up about half of the child care workforce. Skilled, supported, and knowledgeable early childhood educators provide high-quality education, nurture the social and emotional development of children, and set children on a path to success. Low hourly wages and few or no benefits not only jeopardize the financial security of workers, but also negatively affect retention and quality.”

Problems Exacerbated by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all of the child care industry’s pre-existing problems. From the report:

“Prior to COVID-19, Oregon had 3,835 licensed providers with the capacity to serve approximately 128,000 children in child care. During the pandemic, Oregon Governor Kate Brown required that all child care programs close unless they were operating as emergency child care for essential workers—2,200 programs stayed open as emergency child care.”

“Although these providers have the capacity to serve about 23,000 children, only 15,000 children are currently enrolled. This means that only 12 percent of the children who attended care before COVID-19 are attending care during the pandemic. The providers that have remained open also face increased expenses to care for children safely, including the cost of purchasing personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and they also lose revenue because they must limit classroom sizes.”

As providers have responded to the pandemic by closing their doors, or by limiting enrollment to children of essential workers, many have struggled to pay for continuing operating expenses such as rent, insurance, and utilities with dramatically decreased or non-existent revenue. The report makes it clear that these circumstances will do devastating damage to an already delicate child care situation:

“The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that 27 percent of the Oregon child care providers it surveyed indicated they would not survive a closure of more than two weeks without additional funding. Alarmingly, 21 percent reported they could not survive a closure of any length without additional funding. Nationwide, we have already seen more than 330,000 child care providers and early childhood educators lose their jobs in a workforce that is predominantly women and women of color.”

“Without swift action, many providers and centers—whether they are small family childcare businesses, franchise locations, or national child care providers—will not be able to reopen their doors when physical distancing requirements are eased. The Center for American Progress estimates that as many as 44,000 slots could be permanently lost in Oregon.”

Policy Efforts to Stabilize the Industry During the Pandemic

Bonamici’s report outlines important legislative wins that have acted to bolster the child care industry and support families with young children during the pandemic. These include:

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expanded access to emergency paid sick time and paid family leave to nearly 87 million workers to help cover their own illness, illness of a family member, as well as child care and school closures
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included:
    • Federal funds for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program for continued payment and assistance to child care providers and to support child care for essential workers
    • Key supports for early childhood educators, including a suspension of payments on federally-held student loans
    • Access to small business loans of up to $10 million that can be forgiven, if programs use the loans for specific purposes such as wages, paid sick or family leave, health insurance benefits, retirement benefits, mortgages or rent, or utilities

A Proposed Path Forward

Bonamici ends her report with a commitment to pursue additional legislation that would continue to stabilize and support the child care industry, as well as families with young children, through the pandemic and beyond. Details on the specific proposed and current legislation can be found in the full report.

“If substantial support is not provided to sustain the child care sector, programs will continue to bear a steep financial burden and be forced to shutter permanently. And if child care is not available as businesses reopen, parents—mostly mothers—will find it impossible to go back to work. This will have long-term consequences for our families and economy,” says Bonamici.

 

 

 

 

 

Racial and Economic Injustice Persists; Our Actions Must Make a Difference

Racial and Economic Injustice Persists; Our Actions Must Make a Difference

A statement from Swati Adarkar, President and CEO, and Rafael Otto, Director of Communications.

We are heartbroken by the recent loss of life in cities across America and our failure to uphold a society based on racial and economic justice.

The reasons for fury, disbelief, grief, and destruction across the country in recent days are many. Among them: the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

The excruciating video of a police officer slowly taking the life of George Floyd is another painful reminder of the experience that being Black in America is laced with fear and the threat of violence. During the COVID-19 crisis, it also exacerbates the pain and economic hardship experienced by the Black community. Historical trauma, institutionalized racism, and structural discrimination continue to hold America back from making real progress.

The evidence supports this. Our systems need reform, including law enforcement, health, and education. We can see that they do exactly what they are designed to do. They reinforce inequality, poor health outcomes, opportunity and achievement gaps, socioeconomic disparities, poverty, and structural bias.

It is time for our elected leaders and policymakers to act boldly and change the course of history. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, silence is a form of betrayal.

In the work ahead, we must recognize that we still live in a divided America. Prosperity and opportunity are not available equitably. Disparities continue to grow. More children are living in poverty, and the basic rights of low-wage workers and families are largely being ignored.

As advocates, we will not stand by and watch in silence. We must do much more to lift up the needs of Black children and the thousands of other vulnerable children, families, and communities in the work we do, the policies we shape, and the vision we hold for a more equitable Oregon. We know that to level the playing field we must prioritize the needs of children of color, children experiencing poverty, English language learners, children with disabilities and developmental delays, children who are immigrants and refugees, children in geographically isolated communities, children in foster care, and children experiencing unstable housing.

At present, young children in Oregon are more racially and ethnically diverse than adults. We must work harder than ever to ensure that they grow up in a world that values their lives and creates the conditions for them to thrive.

We must build alliances and recommit to transforming our state and our society.

Your voice — our voices ­— are important. So are our actions and our votes.

We can and will make a difference, as individuals, as an organization, and as partners in the protracted struggle for justice, equality, and human rights.

 

 

 

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