UC Santa Cruz student-parents protest shift to privatized child care services

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UC Santa Cruz, or UCSC, plans to shift from its university-provided child care services to the independent, private child care provider Bright Horizons — a “disheartening” and “hypocritical” reality some UCSC student-parents must face.

In May 2017, UCSC announced its plans for a new, independent child care provider and plans to open the new facility in May 2020. This project was incorporated into UCSC’s larger project Student Housing West, an effort to increase campus housing for both students and faculty that was announced in January 2016.

In 2012, a similar effort was proposed by UC Berkeley to shift from its Early Childhood Education Program to Bright Horizons. Due to concerns from parents and the private program’s negative history at Cornell University, however, the campus halted plans to privatize.

According to UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason, UCSC chose Bright Horizons as its new child care provider due to its “favorable” performance at UC Davis and because both UC San Francisco and UCLA currently have agreements with this provider.

Hernandez-Jason added that a major reason for this shift is the opportunity to expand child care services, not only to students but to faculty and staff as well — a service not offered by the current provider, Early Education Services, or EES.

“We believe the larger facility would be much more efficiently run and managed by a professional and licensed child care provider who has the resources to attend to all of the recruitment, staffing and training needs,” said Hernandez-Jason in an email.

UCSC sophomore transfer student Alyssa Tamboura said her eight-year-old has been “thriving” at EES, however, receiving a large amount of personal attention, quality care and healthy, organic food.

Tamboura’s child care for her son is currently fully subsidized by the state government due to her income, as EES is a Title 5 licensed facility. But, Tamboura said this affordable care is threatened by the shift to privatization. According to Hernandez-Jason, because Bright Horizons is not licensed under Title 5, but instead Title 22, there is no opportunity for similar state grant funding, though UCSC plans to offer subsidies of some amount to currently subsidized students using campus funds.

Yvonne Sherwood, a graduate student at UCSC and parent to two children who were raised under the current child care system, said she sees the teachers at EES as “family members” who have created an “accepting and appreciating” learning space for her children — which is why she finds it upsetting to think of these teachers potentially losing their jobs.

“The teachers … have been a part of our lives since we came to Santa Cruz,” Sherwood said. “They’re raising our kids with us … they’ve invested in us.”

Sherwood added that she finds it “disheartening” that teachers who’ve spent their life working with children may have to reapply to an entry-level position in another department on campus.

According to Hernandez-Jason, UCSC is currently working with EES teachers to find a solution, offering them the opportunity to apply for a position as a teacher and/or care provider at the new center or apply to another campus department.

Both Tamboura and Kyle Parry, a UCSC assistant professor of the history of arts and culture, view this shift as somewhat counterintuitive to the ideals and principles UCSC has put forward and emphasized as a campus.

“We are a public research university that prides itself on social justice and on nontraditional thinking. Why hadn’t there been any discussion or debate?” said Parry in an email. “Had there been a debate, the campus community would not, I don’t think, have selected an operator with a stock symbol.”

Tamboura and Sherwood voiced their concerns regarding the new privatized child care in a demonstration Feb. 28, during which student-parents and their children held signs near a busy intersection to inform the larger university community about the issues raised by shifting to privatized child care.

According to Tamboura, there will be another demonstration Monday at the campus’s Quarry Plaza, in which students, children, teachers, faculty, staff and members of the broader Santa Cruz community will protest the implementation of Bright Horizons.

Contact Sabina Mahavni at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.