Lourdes Alarcón is a parent leader with Parent Voices, an incredible parent-led grassroots organization that works to make quality child care affordable and accessible for all families.
Two weeks ago Lourdes was in Sacramento with fellow parent leaders advocating for child care and early care education programs. She spoke at a hearing and argued that child care ought to stay under the California Department of Education as opposed to being transitioned to individual counties.
Lourdes spoke to us last Friday. In the below interview she explains why she believes quality child care education is important for California’s children and mothers.
Lourdes has an associate’s degree in accounting and is now working on getting her teaching credential from the San Francisco State University. She expects to be done in a year and a half.
Q: You testified at a hearing in Sacramento two weeks ago and advocated for child care and early education to stay under the California Department of Education (CDE). Why is that important?
I believe that child care and early education should stay under CDE because childcare is education and not baby sitting or diaper changing. As early education, it should stay under the California Department of Education.
By receiving quality child care and early education, children are more likely to successfully transition to elementary schools. Also, by keeping education under CDE, we can ensure consistency of our educational programs, K-12.
Also, for us advocates, it’s important that child care stays under CDE because we have built relationships with CDE. We have a centralized place to go to and a responsible individual to talk to. If child care were to become decentralized and moved off to individual counties, we would not have anybody to talk to and hold accountable. We would basically be at the mercy of the individual counties if they decided to make any changes or cuts.
Furthermore, our efforts as advocates would be diluted and we would not be able to act as a coalition. We would have to fight individual battles in individual counties and wouldn’t be able to organize, help and learn from each other.
Q: Your son was 3 years old and your daughter an infant when the recession hit and you lost your job. How did not having child care affect you?
When the recession hit, I lost my job because of state budget cuts. I was working as a secretary at a school, and, unfortunately, every time the economy goes bad, education is the first to get cut.
I lost my job because of the recession, but I couldn’t get another because I had a small child. Because I had a baby, I was not considered a good worker because, employers assumed, I wasn’t going to be available all of the time. And though, in theory, there are laws that protect mothers, in practice discrimination happens every day. Employers want productivity and reliable workers and if you have a baby they think that you won’t be the kind of the worker that they want.
I didn’t have reliable child care so I could not get a reliable job.
I could have taken jobs that paid minimum wage. But those jobs didn’t have benefits and I didn’t think that was right for my 3-year-old son and my infant daughter. For their sake, I needed benefits, child care and insurance.
Q: What do you think is the biggest obstacle in reforming child care in California?
I believe that it’s the stereotypes that are still going on out there. People believe that single mothers are at home all day long watching soap operas while the government is supporting them. But, all the women I know work hard. Believe me, it’s really hard being a single mother.
I know these stereotypes are real because of an encounter I will never forget. Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Education, came to San Francisco and talked to a group of us from all over California.
Her first question to us was: Are you single because you don’t want to lose your childcare?
This question really upset me and made me cry. I’m not a single mother by choice. I am in this situation because my husband was deported and he’s in Mexico now trying to fix his immigration status.
I’ve been fighting to do the best for my children and it upsets me when someone in the government position comes to me and takes a completely wrong perspective about my life.
Q: What do you think would be the best way to improve childcare in California?
I would start by recognizing the preschool and early care teachers. Even though some people think that these people just change diapers, we have to recognize that they’re truly educating our children.
Second, I would increase reimbursements for exempt child care providers. Right now, a woman can choose to have a family member take care of her children instead of taking them to a child care center full time. Currently, these family members receive $1.99/hour. That’s nowhere close to being enough.