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. 

 

Early Childhood Investments Are Even More Critical Now

Early Childhood Investments Are Even More Critical Now

Oregon is facing the most severe health and economic crisis in our lifetime and the state’s revenue forecast released yesterday paints a grim picture. State budgets are facing a $2.7 billion hit to the current revenue cycle and another $7.8 billion loss through 2025.

We are deeply concerned for those hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19: young children and families experiencing poverty, low-wage workers, women, children and communities of color, immigrants, and those managing disabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an existing crisis for vulnerable young children across the state at a time when wide opportunity gaps were already impacting access to quality early care and education and basic health services. The number of children living in low-income households is increasing. Early learning programs like child care and preschool have closed, and many may not reopen. Children are missing critical well-child checkups and immunizations creating further disparities and public health dangers.

Existing and entrenched racial and economic disparities in our health systems are compounding the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. This includes increased food insecurity and housing instability during the most critical time for young children to develop a strong foundation.

Oregon cannot afford to go backwards. It is essential that we reach more children with the committed early learning funds from the Student Success Act.

Now is the time to hold firm on Oregon’s commitment to young children and their families and to protect and expand our early childhood investments. 

Our elected leaders face serious challenges as they work to create an economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic that brings needed relief to individuals and communities across the state. We urge them to focus on reducing disparities and increasing opportunities for children before they arrive at kindergarten. We know that children who start school behind stay behind.

Early childhood investments are a smart choice. They can begin to break down structural inequalities in our communities and our society. They effectively strengthen a child’s ability to grow and learn during the most rapid period of brain development, from birth to age 5. And they yield a significant return on investment, benefiting children and society in the short and long term.

A recent review by RAND Corporation scientists of early childhood program evaluations showed that 90% of programs had a positive effect. Among programs with an economic evaluation, the typical return is $2 to $4 for every dollar invested.

Now is the time to hold firm on Oregon’s commitment to young children and their families and to protect and expand our early childhood investments. This will take moral courage and clarity about how to best address long-standing inequities in Oregon while considering the state’s future economic health.

We are inspired by Oregonians coming together to create solutions, and we know that centering our most vulnerable children and families when decisions are made will give us a stronger and healthier state. We stand ready to work with our elected officials, partners, and families to ensure a brighter, healthier future for us all.

 

Resources

View the Complete Revenue Forecast

View the Revenue Forecast Summary

You can make an impact!

We know you care about young children and their families in Oregon. Turn your caring into action. Your tax deductible contribution allows us to continue our outreach to communities across Oregon impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your generous donation makes a difference!

Early Childhood Investments Are Even More Critical Now

ELD Updates Guidance, Announces $8M in Grants for Emergency Child Care Providers

Oregon’s Early Learning Division issued updated guidance for emergency child care providers and announced that $8 million in new grant funding will soon be available to all current emergency care providers thanks to funding allocated to Oregon through the federal CARES act.

Changes and Updates to Rules for Emergency Care Providers

Changes and updates to the emergency care rules and guidelines include:

  • School-based emergency care will end on June 30, 2020 unless the school provided child care prior to the emergency.
  • The Office of Child Care will no longer accept “pop-up” applications, unless there is additional child care capacity needed in the area.
  • Emergency child care providers are still required to serve children in stable groups of 10. The new guidance clarifies that teachers and staff must also remain a stable part of each group.
  • Care providers are now able to serve more than one stable group of 10 children, provided the groups are kept in separate, exclusive rooms. Common areas like bathrooms, eating areas and outdoor areas may be shared in separate shifts. If a care provider is interested in serving more than one group of 10 children, they will need to contact their licensing specialist for approval.
  • Existing health and safety procedures developed in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority are still in effect and emergency providers are reminded that they cannot refuse enrollment to a child of an essential worker based simply on the belief that they may be more likely to contract the virus.

The full guide for temporary emergency child care providers is available here.

 

Emergency Care Providers Now Eligible for Non-Competitive Grants

spanish ecc grant from eld

This non-competitive grant will distribute $8 million in funds allocated to Oregon through the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. Providers must submit their applications by May 11. More information and online application is available here.

 

Survey Deadline Extended to May 1

All child care providers—emergency or not—are encouraged to provide feedback on a survey designed to inform the state’s plans for reopening businesses. The survey is available in multiple languages through the links below:

English

Español (Spanish)

русский (Russian)

简体中文 (Simplified Chinese)

繁體中文 (Traditional Chinese)

Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

 

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You can make an impact!

We know you care about young children and their families in Oregon. Turn your caring into action. Your tax deductible contribution allows us to continue our outreach to communities across Oregon impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your generous donation makes a difference!

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