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Child care staffing crisis

 January 24, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, January 24th>>>>

A dire staffing situation in childcare

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

The number of covid-19 hospitalizations in San Diego county increased by 17, according to the latest state data. Plus four more patients have been added to the ICU count. San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency reported more than 11,000 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths associated with the virus on Friday. The county does not report covid-19 data on weekends.

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A new state senate bill could allow kids 12 and over to get FDA-approved vaccines without their parent’s consent. KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman explains…

“The proposed legislation is being brought by state senator scott wiener..in support for the bill he says “unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe… let’s let teens protect their health.” sb 866 is co authored by local assembly member dr. akilah weber…”

This legislation would not allow vaccine providers to give other medical services.

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The shoreline at Imperial beach is closed again, a day after it was declared safe for use. On Saturday the San Diego county department of environmental health had said the shoreline testing samples were safe, but by Sunday sewage runoff from the Tijuana river entered the estuary and county health officials closed the shoreline again.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Die go News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Even before COVID, there was a real staffing crisis among child care providers. Supporters say the positions are under-valued and poorly paid. Now, the situation is far worse. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser looks at what is causing this massive childcare staffing crisis in the region.

In May 2021, Ally had just graduated from SDSU with a degree in child and family development and went looking for her first job. She was hired immediately by a local preschool.

Preschool Teacher

“This is the first and only job I applied to and it ended up working out.”

But her college education did little to prepare her for what she ended up walking into.

“Technically I would have a co teacher and we would split up the children six and six. But with where I'm at right now, I am keeping all twelve kids together.”

Six months into the job, Ally and her classroom of toddlers are left with a rotating cast of substitute teachers. Ally doesn’t want to reveal her full name or the name of the school to protect her job.

We put name tags on the children so that we can help the subs identify them and they can actually refer to them by their name

Plus, sometimes the subs themselves call in sick, or just don’t show up.

“ I've noticed how attached they are to me. And when other subs come in, it's kind of like stranger danger.”

Preschools and childcare centers everywhere are dealing with a massive staffing shortage.

On job search websites, there are more than 200 local child care openings—some even offering signing bonuses. Providers told KPBS they can’t find qualified people to hire.

The problem is much worse than the general labor shortage trend. Childcare providers have to compete with retailers and restaurants for workers, but those other sectors can raise starting wages.

Plus, people are still worried about catching COVID from unvaccinated toddlers.

Caitlin McLean

Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, UC Berkeley

“We're asking so much for $12 an hour when you could be making more at McDonald's or Starbucks or Target, where you don't have to have to do such an emotionally demanding job.”

Caitlin McLean is with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley.

“If we want to make sure that families have access to these services, we have to make sure that this is a good job that people want to do. And we have not been doing that.”

Average Teacher Pay in California

Preschool: $16.83/hour

Kindergarten: $41.86/hour

Source: UC Berkeley Study of Child Care Employment

Childcare workers below poverty line: 36.7%

On average, California preschool teachers make less than half of what Kindergarten teachers make. And more than a third of childcare workers live below the federal poverty line.

Raising pay for these workers might seem like an easy solution, but there’s a domino effect … First off, state regulations require child care centers to have one teacher for every four infants and one for every six toddlers, which means a lot of staff … so if they pay more, they’d have no choice but to raise rates for parents, which many couldn’t afford.

Holly Weber

Magic Hour Preschool

“There's no way that I can continue to ask parents to pay out of pocket at a higher weekly rate than I already do, I'm already within market rate.”

Holly Weber owns Magic Hour Preschool in Mira Mesa.

“It's just running a fine line between parents choosing to not even go back to work because their child care expenses are so exorbitant.”

Briana Mendoza

Recent Early Childhood Education Graduate

“People aren’t going to apply to jobs where you aren't being recognized.”

Like Ally, Briana Mendoza also recently graduated from SDSU with an early childhood education degree. But she has no interest in working at a preschool. She instead is looking at jobs where she would work one-on-one with children in crisis, which would pay $21 to $22 an hour.

“I mean, you are constantly running. I'm telling you, I would be sweating in the classrooms, whether I was changing diapers, carrying babies, feeding them, sweeping. It wasn't just childcare in there. It was sweeping, housework, doing laundry.”

Meanwhile, Ally, who is solo teaching at a local preschool, is trying to hold on, but isn’t sure how long she wants to continue.

“Considering I'm doing the job of two teachers right now at minimum wage, it's really discouraging.”

Claire Trageser, KPBS News

That was reporting from KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traegeser. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the federal Build Back Better bill and how it would address the childcare staffing problem, plus other efforts to make changes in San Diego County.

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More than a year after San Diego voters overwhelmingly passed Measure B, which authorized the creation of an independent citizen police oversight board, a draft ordinance setting up the Commission on Police Practices is finally moving forward.

KPBS Race and Equity reporter Cristina Kim has details.

The San Diego City Council's Public Safety and Liveable Communities Committee unanimously voted to advance a draft ordinance to implement the city’s police oversight board to the full city council. A previous version failed to pass the committee last June.

Council President Pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe has led the effort to implement the new Commission on Police Practices.

“I believe that we have crafted an ordinance that meets the spirit and intent of Measure B and also is legally permissible.”

Before the full city council votes on the plan, community members will have the opportunity to provide additional recommendations in several town halls planned in the coming weeks.

Cristina Kim. KPBS News.

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A commonly-used steel building column won’t withstand the stress of a strong earthquake. That’s according to a study at UC San Diego. That means building codes will be changing soon.

KPBS Science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge has the story.

A video shows an 18-foot steel column in the grip, top to bottom, of a large vise that shifts back and forth. UCSD’s shake table simulates the stress of a building’s weight AND the movement of a strong earthquake. Ultimately, the column buckles and bends, and that could cause a building to lean or even collapse. Structural engineer Jay Harris says the greater width, or depth, of the column means its connecting spine has become too slender.

“So it gets very thin - the slenderness gets very high - the column itself is at risk of buckling too much and losing some of its load-carrying capacity.”

He said these wide columns were, ironically, put in place to prevent damage from lateral movement in an earthquake. Harris says people building or renovating a structure after 2024 will have to use different steel columns.

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As the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could overturn the landmark Roe versus Wade abortion rulling, and further restrict access to abortion…California lawmakers announced legislation late last week to increase access.

CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon reports.

Democrats want California to become a so-called ‘safe haven’ for reproductive health care — especially if Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case, is overturned. Lawmakers announced eight new bills they say would make it easier for Californians — and those from out of state — to get an abortion.

SKINNER: California will not just stand by.

Senator Nancy Skinner is vice-chair of the legislative women’s caucus.

SKINNER: We are committed to protecting and providing access to abortion and all reproductive services, not only for Californians, but any who seek refuge here.

Jonathan Keller is with the California Family Council, a religious group that opposes abortion. He says lawmakers should focus on other issues, like the cost of living and crime.

KELLER: Unfortunately, this seems to be another example of California legislators’ misplaced priorities.

Many of the bills are taken from a recent report that recommends ways the state could expand reproductive health care and serve people from out of state.

One of the bills would ban insurers from charging out-of-pocket costs for an abortion. Others would strengthen legal and privacy protections for patients and providers.

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Coming up.... An annual report card on how California kids are managing is out and it reflects a growing crisis that young people are facing. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

This year’s California Children’s Report Card is out, and it is raising red flags about youth across the State. The report card shows that California youth are under a lot of pressure from things like the pandemic to systemic racism, and more resources are needed to address it. Kelly Hardy is Senior Managing Director of Health and Research with Children Now, a non-profit group that advocates for kids and produces the annual report card. She spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon about the grades. Here’s that interview.

Speaker 1: (00:25)

How did the state do in this year's report card?

Speaker 2: (00:28)

Well, the state brought home grades that I wouldn't want my kid to be bringing home well, let's just put it that way. Um, the, the state needs to be making kids priority 1, 2, 3, to make sure that they have the supports they need to grow up and succeed in California. The grades are a bit better than they were in the previous report card. We're moving in the right direction on some issues thanks to, to really big investments, but it's a start. We have a long way to go. So

Speaker 1: (01:00)

What areas do, did you all explore in this, uh, research?

Speaker 2: (01:04)

So we looked at 32 different issue areas from funding for K12 education, to healthcare, accountability, to preventive screenings, mental health, substance abuse, decriminalization of youth. So many different issue areas that impact children's lives. And we looked at both long term trends. What's what's happening with our kids. And also what we know of that we can see from the data, um, of the impact of the pandemic in those areas.

Speaker 1: (01:39)

And of particular concern in the data is the disparity in learning loss. Uh, as we enter the third year of this pandemic, can you talk about that?

Speaker 2: (01:48)

Absolutely. All kids have had some learning lag, um, that we see from the pandemic due to the closures of closures of school buildings, um, and difficulties connecting online, et cetera. Um, but we definitely see that some groups have had more difficulties than others, especially English learners. Um, those who are categorized as economically disadvantaged and American Indian and Latino students.

Speaker 1: (02:22)

Uh, the study also point into a rise in suicides among black youth. Uh, how much of an increase are we seeing and, and what's driving that.

Speaker 2: (02:30)

So, unfortunately there's a, a doubling really of the rate of suicides amongst black youth ages, 10 to 24, um, between 2014 and 2020, and especially a, a sharp rise from 2019 to 2020 there's congressional committees looking into this issue, it's not happening just in California, it's nationwide, but we really need to make sure that there's prevention and interventions targeted specifically towards black youth in California. What we're seeing as far as causes are that there's overt and systemic racism. That's put putting additional pressures on black youth and that are black, young people are over and under resourced.

Speaker 1: (03:21)

Hmm. From where you sit, do you think there are some policies in place that have really exacerbated these issues?

Speaker 2: (03:29)

There's just not enough access to services sometimes at any cost. Um, we hear of parents looking for mental healthcare for the kids and they can't find them no matter what they're willing to pay. So it's a, it's a really pressing concern.

Speaker 1: (03:46)

When you look at the data collected, uh, in this study, um, you describe the outlook for children in California as grim. What were the biggest indications of that? What we

Speaker 2: (03:57)

Pointed out around the health and mental health, um, is really concerning. And, uh, those of us who are parents, um, who are, or who have kids in our lives can certainly see that, that the pandemic has had, and especially concerning impact on the mental health of kids. Additionally, we see that the state D grade in healthcare, accountability, too few kids are getting checkups. Only 26% of our infants got well, baby checkups in California. And that was in 2019. So before the pandemic, so we really just need to be making sure that the basics are covered.

Speaker 1: (04:40)

What solutions do you see?

Speaker 2: (04:42)

Well, in the report card, we've included a pro kid agenda item for each of these issue areas. So we point out what we think the state should be doing, um, on all of these issues. One of the things that we mentioned is, again, more access to mental health services, you in schools and in other areas, because kids who need them are just not getting them,

Speaker 1: (05:06)

Uh, in this research, did you find areas where things are actually working for children?

Speaker 2: (05:12)

We did there's many bright spots, and I would encourage folks to look at the report card. One of them is that, uh, there was a historic rate of voting and amongst young people in 2020, and that's really exciting, uh, showing leadership for the future.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Even before the pandemic, it was difficult to hire childcare staff. The positions are undervalued and poorly paid. Now, during the Great Resignation, the situation is more dire than ever. Meanwhile, more than a year after San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of an independent police oversight board, a City Council committee has finally ok’d a draft plan for the board. And, this year’s California Children’s Report Card is out and it is raising red flags for youth across the state.