Reflecting on the November 2023 Early Care & Education Public Policy Retreat

In a unified effort to drive change and advocate for the future of early care and education (ECE), the San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC) and the SF ECE Advocacy Coalition (SF ECE AC) hosted the second-annual San Francisco Early Care & Education Public Policy Retreat on November 4.

This transformative event brought together over 100 parents, advocates, and educators, creating a vibrant space to explore engaged advocacy, dissect the future of child care, and hear insights from key figures in the San Francisco child care landscape.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, Dr. Lygia Stebbing, Ingrid Mezquita, Alida Fisher

This event featured esteemed panelists—Ingrid Mezquita, Executive Director of SF Department of Early Childhood (DEC); Myrna Melgar, District 7 Supervisor of San Francisco; Dr. Lygia Stebbing, President & CEO of EDvance; and Alida Fisher, Commissioner of SFUSD Board of Education—whose expertise offered in-depth perspectives on the complexities of San Francisco’s child care community. We extend heartfelt thanks for their commitment to championing child care and contributing to a productive dialogue.

We extend heartfelt thanks for their commitment to championing child care and contributing to a productive dialogue.

The heart of this retreat lay in the thought-provoking panel discussions addressing the most pressing challenges facing the child care community, from spending DEC funding to the imperative of livable wages for educators. Panelists diligently illuminated both the complexities and opportunities within the upcoming year fostering an ongoing conversation. Attendees were invited to submit real-time questions to panelists for honest and unrehearsed answers, creating a dynamic and engaging atmosphere.

Panelists were posed with the compelling question: What would your perfect child care landscape look like if money or politics weren’t an obstacle? Supervisor Myrna Melgar, in response, shared a poignant vision:

“Money has always been a barrier, that is a disequity itself… A system that is first of all gender equitable, that is racially equitable, that is geographically equitable in terms of accessibility, that it is economically equitable in terms of better wages for a female-dominated workforce… I wish for a system that is responsive to the changing needs of the workforce in this city.”

Supervisor Melgar’s vision resonates with a call for an inclusive, equitable, and adaptable child care system that transcends financial and political constraints. Her perspective echoes the shared aspiration for a child care landscape that prioritizes equity and responsiveness to the diverse needs of both its providers and recipients.

Our presenters skillfully navigated us through the past year’s advocacy triumphs, spotlighting a pivotal moment in June. In the face of a city-wide budget deficit, a collective effort successfully saved $120 million in Baby Prop C funding, ensuring the preservation of the child care baseline. The SF ECE AC orchestrated a grassroots campaign, mobilizing over 700 parents, child care educators, providers, and advocates at City Hall showcasing the power of advocacy in action.

Parent Voices San Francisco presenters Maria Luz Torre and April Leung guided attendees through a Three-Legged-Dog activity, sharing effective messaging techniques for interactions with officials, reporters, and public commentary. These empowering demonstrations served as invaluable tools for our advocates, reinforcing their commitment to the ongoing improvement of child care.

The retreat concluded with an engaging and interactive workshop, inviting attendees to discover their organizer type through a survey. This led to the formation of groups aligned with specific roles, fostering meaningful conversations and encouraging attendees to embrace the collective power of social change.

Empowering attendees with tools to become effective advocates was a central theme of the retreat, leaving participants with a renewed sense of purpose and readiness to champion positive change.

Children’s Council extends gratitude to the diverse array of participants, panelists, and coalition partners who made this event a resounding success. The collaborative spirit displayed at the retreat reinforces our shared commitment to enhancing the early care and education experience for San Francisco’s children and families. This collective effort relied on a community of individuals dedicated to enacting meaningful change.

As we reflect on our community’s accomplishments in 2023, the momentum generated will undoubtedly propel our ongoing efforts into next year. We’re thrilled to see what the next year brings and hope you’ll join us on that journey. If you’d like to get involved, please visit the Coalition’s new website here or learn more about the Coalition’s mission here.

The November 2023 retreat was made possible through the collaborative efforts of key organizers and presenters: Liz Winograd (CPAC Chair), Naeemah Charles (Senior Director of Public Policy Communication at Children’s Council), Alex Maykowski (Senior Manager of Public Policy & Organizing at Children’s Council), Anna Wolde-Yohannes (Partnerships Manager at EDvance), and Yensing Sihapanya (Executive Director at Family Connections Center).

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