I can’t Go To School!

cayley - Posted on 06 September 2010

Amanda Smiles

Low income and working poor parents protest the closure of Infant and Toddler Child Care Centers in the Bay Are and beyond


I am standing at the entrance of Laney College in Oakland where the excitement, anxiety, and thrill of first day jitters permeate the air. Right and left students swarm to class, holding their schedules tightly, backpacks swinging. It is almost a typical first day of school, bustling, hectic, and noisy. The only irregularity is a group of 30 student parents and their children holding an emergency press conference to demand the reopening of Laney’s Infant and Toddler Center.

Being a student myself, I understand the pressures of school. Often, I feel overwhelmed by the combination of classes, homework, work, and everyday life. I find myself with very little time, and unlike many students in this country, I do not have children. Surrounded by children and student parents I imagine how much harder my student career would be if I had children and no child-care. I can barely cope as is, how would I cope then?

“Good luck, Mommy,” chimes the voice of one of Mahasin Moon’s three children before she moved in front of the microphones to address a crowd of television cameras, new reporters, and photographers. Mahasin, a parent, student of Laney College, and organizer with the advisory council of the Laney College Children's Center takes the mic and introduces her three children. The two oldest are graduates of Laney’s toddler and infant center, her youngest who just turned 2, will not be able to attend the center due to it’s closure.

Last May 16 days before the end of the spring semester, the staff at Laney’s Toddler and Infant Center was notified that at the end of the semester the center would be closed, indefinitely. Although the staff was notified, many students were not and found out about the closure only 2 weeks before the start of the semester, leaving many student with little options beside dropping out.

Laney’s solution to the closure is to have parents use Merritt College’s child-care center. This solution is unrealistic to most parents. There is only one bus that runs to Merritt College and the time it would take parents in transit would leave many stretched. Also, Merritt’s child care center runs out a single room, leaving little space for new children and unlike Laney’s Infant and Toddler Center, Merritt’s is not sliding scale

The closure and under funding of child care centers and family resource centers is a crisis happening all over the state. In San Francisco, the City College’s innovative PEP program recently lost its only licensed child-care provider. The PEP program, operating out of the Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center, is a license exempt child-care program that provides parents 9 hours of class time in exchange for 2 hours of volunteer time. It also provides a computer cluster space where parents can bring their children and food for parents and their children. Until recently PEP had a licensed childcare provider on staff, who eventually the left the position. Afterwards, City College refused to replace her due to lack of funding.

"The Funding that the state provides to Community Colleges is no way enough to fund the cost of providing care to infants and young children. Most Campus Child Care programs have had to generate funds from other sources. A common source for these funds has been the General Funds of the sponsoring institutions. However, as the colleges' General Funds have had to cover more and more costs over the years, many college administrations have become reluctant to use those funds for child care that is why the Peralta College system has been gradually reducing the programs to only include older children," says Judy Kriege, technical facilities assistant with Bananas, a Child Care and Referral Service in Oakland.

Tracy Faulkner, welfare QUEEN, single mother, and director of City College of San Francisco Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center says about funding, “We shouldn’t be fighting for scraps. We should be growing, not going backwards.”

The event at Laney was organized by POOR magazine a non-profit, arts, education, and media justice organization, in a cross bay effort in collaboration with LIFETIME, California Tomorrow, Parent Voice, and poor parents and students. We gather at Laney asking that certain steps be taken so thousands of poor parents do not lose their chance at an education and a better life for themselves and their families. The most urgent demand is that the Laney Infant and Toddler Center be re-opened by the start of the Fall 2006 semester.

We also demand the funding streams for all the Community College Child Care centers be prioritized, stream-lined and strengthened and that there be transparency and inclusion of the parent leaders and directors of the programs in the funding of the centers. Finally, we want a full-time licensed exempt child care position be reinstated at The Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center at City College and formalized at ALL Family Resource Centers as they are a crucial aspect of their successful operation and stabilization.

Having the privilege of being a financially stable student who has little need for family resource centers, I often forget how crucial their role is in aiding student parents who are struggling to get out of poverty. It is when I meet students who rely of family resource centers to complete their education do I remember why it isn’t just parents who need to support these center, but also people like me.

As the press conference comes to a close, cameras and reporters disperse and children run to a nearby grassy patch to play. Students who had stopped to listen now begin their migration back to class and supporters congratulate parents on their speeches. With the close of the press conference the jitters of the first day come back, but for some students at Laney these jitters won’t be felt again until the toddler and infant center is reopened.

As of September 4th Laney has still not reopened it’s Infant and Toddler Center. If you are interested in working on this urgent issue please call POOR @ 415-863-6306.


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