County Board of Supervisors approves early education and child care tax ordinance introduced by Nancy Skinner

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The Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to approve the child care and early education tax ordinance, taking it one step closer to being placed on the June 2018 ballot.

The new ordinance aims to make quality child care and education affordable for young, low-income students in Alameda County. The measure would be funded by a half-cent sales tax increase for the next 30 years, annually raising $140 million, according to a press release from State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

Only the first draft of the ordinance has been approved by the board of supervisors, and according to Berkeley School Board Vice President Judy Appel, it will require a second reading and approval before it can be placed on the ballot.

“I think this initiative will be a model for the country because it really targets the students who most need the support,” Appel said. “It encompasses three key features: access, wages and quality.”

Though the school board has not officially endorsed the initiative at this time, Appel is confident that it will have done so before the second reading and approval.

A January 2018 presentation compiled by the Alameda County Early Care and Education Planning Council said 69 percent of students with working parents do not have access to affordable and high-quality child care.

One year of such care can cost more than a UC Berkeley student’s yearly tuition, according to the presentation.

“We certainly welcome additional funding for early childhood education, which addresses the crucial formative period before a child enters grade school,” Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Burress said in an email.

Homeless and low-income students often have even more difficulty gaining access to quality child care, the presentation reads, and their lack of access leads to detriments once children enter the K-12 system. In 2016, only 44 percent of kindergartners began the year ready for school.

If the bill passes, the new funding would go toward ensuring quality education at the pre-kindergarten level, especially for low-income and homeless students, according to the ordinance’s first draft. The money would also be used to increase wages and enhance the education of providers whose student population is at least 25 percent low-income.

Although June is the earliest the measure would go up for vote, a preliminary poll run by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates indicates that 73 percent of Alameda county residents would vote in support of this tax.

Skinner introduced the legislation that allowed the Alameda Board of Supervisors to vote on the initiative. The bill, SB 703, was approved by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 10, 2017.

Contact Mariam Zagub and Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected].