No One Is Coming to Save Us LIVE: Unpacking the Child Care Crisis

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The pandemic has brought the fault lines and inequities in our social sectors into sharp focus, perhaps most glaringly child care. The economic and social impacts of our failure to publicly invest in child care have become untenable not only for parents, but also for early education providers and teachers. In our first-ever live episode, Gloria moderates a panel of policy experts, child care advocates, and on-the-ground activists to help us better understand the underlying causes of the child care crisis and how we can push for progress. Featuring Matthew Henderson (Executive Director, OLÉ Education Fund), Nicole Mason (President & CEO, Institute for Women’s Policy Research), and Sarah Siegel Muncey (Co-President of Neighborhood Villages).

This episode is an edited version of a live event on September 27 in partnership with Neighborhood Villages and WBUR CitySpace.

No One Is Coming to Save Us is presented by Neighborhood Villages, and is brought to you with generous support from Imaginable FuturesCare For All Children by the David and Laura Merage Foundation, and Spring Point Partners.

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For additional resources, information, and a transcript of the episode, visit lemonadamedia.com.

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Gloria Riviera, Matthew Henderson, Sarah Muncey, Nicole Mason

Gloria Riviera  00:10

Hi guys, how’s everyone doing this week? I am so excited. I was in Boston on a work trip. We recorded our first ever live episode of No One Is Coming To Save Us, how cool, right? And I get to share that episode here with you right now. This is No One Is Coming To Save Us, a Lemonada Media original presented by and created with neighborhood villages. I am your host Gloria Riviera. So today’s episode is an edited version of a live event we recorded on September 27th. In partnership with neighborhood villages, and WBUR city space. I was the moderator and people think moderators don’t really I don’t know they’re not excited about their guests. Wrong, at least for me. I am as my daughter likes to say always nervous cited. That’s nervous and excited together. I am not that impressed by a lot at my age and stage in the game. I am impressed by people who are passionate about making lasting and meaningful change. And these folks fit the bill. So who are they okay, our first guest Matthew Henderson. He joined us virtually from New Mexico since 2010. He has been the executive director of the Olay Education Fund. Nicole Mason, the President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She joined us live in person, Nicole has spearheaded research relating to economic security, poverty, women’s issues and entitlement reforms, policy formation and political participation among women, communities of color and racial equity. She is also the author of born bright, a young girl’s journey from nothing to something in America and has written hundreds of news articles on women poverty and economic security. Who does that? Well, Nicole does it. And finally, drumroll please. Sara Muncie, the co-founder and CO president of neighborhood villages alongside Lauren Kennedy. You guys have heard Lauren and Sarah on this podcast before they are real changemakers working towards a future in which all families have access to affordable high quality early education and care. Sarah is the woman who recounting her own early days as a mom made me cry in season one. And I mean big blubbery, I need a moment. Tears. I love her for that and much more. And can I tell you I met them beforehand, because I flew in and I needed a place to change. So I saw them before they saw me. And I said hey, not formal. No, like, hi, am Gloria. It’s so nice to meet you. Just Hey, like to someone you know really well. And we do from our many, many online meetings. We are friends only we had never been in the same room a minor technicality of COVID. Who cares? What I can tell you is that they are every bit as lovely and down to earth and informed as I just knew they would be. It was all the feels to be together and have this important conversation. All right. Without further ado, here is our first ever live episode of no one is coming to save us.

Gloria Riviera  03:37

You know, it still stops me in my tracks when people say I listen to your show. Oh my gosh, it’s changed my life. I feel so seen if it’s a caregiver or teacher, or I want to share something because I heard you talking about it on your show. And when I think about how this came to be when Lemonada Media and the co-founders Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs came to me with Neighborhood Villages, Lauren Kennedy and Sarah Muncey, to interview me to be host of the show. You know, my sole qualification was that I was a working mother, I had three children. And I remember when I was based in China, I would go away for days or weeks at a time. And the only way that I was able to do that was because my mother came and looked after the kids when I would be sent. I would often get a call, you know, get your bag, you’re going to the airport. Not really knowing when I was coming back. And I look back on that now and first off, thank you for hiring me. But I think that I was so steeped in the child care crisis, I really couldn’t see straight. I was only in China for a short period of time. My oldest is now soon to be 14. And it was a story I couldn’t get my head around because it was so accepted in this country. It was everyone Experience, everyone’s shared frustration, everyone’s confusion. And it didn’t feel good and it didn’t feel right. And I saw people around the country around the world, rather who were dealing with very different situations. In places like Germany, where there is care, from the time your child is a matter of weeks old, many other countries as well. And it just felt like it did not have to be the way it was in this country. have covered wars have covered natural disasters, I’ve seen this government spend money in a second, and I just couldn’t I couldn’t get my head around why the lack of childcare exists in this country the way that it does. And when we started the first season, you know, we were telling stories and several stories stayed with me one of those stories is a story that I’m going to ask Sarah to tell to share. And it has to do with what in my world has become a very famous minivan. And what happened with that minivan. So I will ask Sarah to kick us off by asking her to share that story and what the trip in the famous minivan revealed.

Sarah Muncey  06:23

Well,1 So Lauren, who’s right over there, Kennedy and I, when we set out to found neighborhood villages, we knew that the childcare crisis was what we were after. And that surely, this was fixable. And we drove around in my minivan, which is a gross minivan, and it’s gross by minivan standards. And I’m not exaggerating, and Gloria just rode in my minivan about two hours ago. And I want you to know that it took me three trips from the passenger seat to the trunk, to clear out space for her to sit down. So the minivans gross, but they should be. And so Lauren, and I thought, when you look at the facts around childcare, it is so obvious from any perspective that this is something that we should tackle, as a nation. And so we drove around making our case to people in the minivan. And they thought we were like sweet, and like cute moms of young kids. And like this is very nice. And that was what we were faced with all the time is that saying like no, like this is economic issue. This is. And people just kind of it felt like we were getting like patted on the head, and then the pandemic hit. And the whole first half of our pitch went away. We don’t have to talk about brain development, we don’t really have to talk about employment numbers for moms anymore. We don’t have to talk about and all the things that we used to like makeup, pull out a chart where you skip all that now. And you’re all here. And we’re here talking about this with WBUR. And it’s a serious issue worthy of discourse and worthy of people, you know, figuring out. So I feel like that is a really big shift is that we don’t have to make that we can stand very firmly. And we tried to stand firmly in our power before. But now post pandemic we can all really stand firmly in knowing that this is fixable, and it’s […]

Gloria Riviera  08:40

This is a family podcast. But that is true. And, you know, hearing that story makes me think again, how so many people share their story. And Nicole, you have an incredibly compelling story about your own journey to motherhood. I wonder if you would share it with us and then maybe make a shift towards how it all revealed itself to be a policy story as well.

Nicole Mason  09:04

So I’m a single mother by choice. And I remember I just started this really great job at NYU. And I felt like my career was going up. But I knew I wanted to be a mom and so at a bar with a group of friends. I said, I’m going to become a mother. They were like you; you may be drunk. I said no. I’m really serious. So I made that decision. In the fall of 2018. By February, I had become pregnant. And initially I wanted one child but I became pregnant with twins. I gave birth in October. I had two months of leave. I want to say I didn’t have any maternity leave. It was paid sick leave and vacation time cobbled together and so about a couple of weeks because you know, I know nothing about childcare in New York City, about a couple of weeks before my maternity leave is supposed to end, I started looking for care. And the prices for twit, it’s just astronomical. I’m running the numbers; they don’t make sense. And I even started to literally look on Craigslist, I said, well, maybe it’s gonna be okay. You just got to find somebody you trust. And it just didn’t work. It wasn’t. And I was getting close to the day I was supposed to return to work. And my grandmother, I’m a very proud woman. So my grandmother, who lives in California, she was in her 60s, she called me to see how he’s doing not great. And she said, well, I’ll come and visit I said, Well, you know, you can if you want, but you can, you know, I guess you can come for two weeks, she stayed for 18 months. And she stayed because one, I needed her to stay. But if she had not come and did not stay, I would not have been able to return to work, a job that I loved. So she stayed for 18 months. And I, you know, got to you know, work. But I also had another person to take care of, I had to take care of my grandmother. And I remember going to my boss and asking for a raise, because I was like, I have these kids. And I you know, and I still had to give her a break sometimes. And she said no. Because why. And I was thinking for now I have these two kids, these two babies. And so before that time, I never thought of childcare. And I think this is one of the big issues like you don’t think about it until you think about it. And so one of the things that I think is really important is getting us to bring childcare and our discussions in our experiences into the public narrative in the public discourse in bigger way. And the other piece I wanted to say is that my grandmother did leave, eventually, after 18 months, but I did make her take the dog, I had a dog, a cat at the time was like you that you’re not getting out of here, free. So she took the dog and but I also had to travel for work, so I had to pay for overnight care. And overnight care is really expensive. So I was paying for after care and overnight care. And it amounted to attacks, I was literally paying to work, attacks that non-mothers don’t have to pay. So fast forward 20 years later, this is you know, I remember my experience as a mom. And I’m at IWPR. So I have this perch where I get to use my lived experiences and experiences of the, you know, women who have also had similar experiences, to really think about what, what might we need to do at the federal and state level to really make or build a robust childcare infrastructure? What would it really take? What would it cost, and really start to think big and boldly about it. And you know, the pandemic opened up that door. But, you know, it also seemed like a slam shut in some in some ways as well.

Gloria Riviera  13:15

Yeah, definitely recently, it’s felt like we’ve all been riding this roller coaster with big hopes. And I still point to the fact that who knows how long it’s been since the President uttered the words child care in a State of the Union speech which has happened, so I remain optimistic. I haven’t always felt 100% optimistic. But when I think about New Mexico, and I think about the work that Matthew Henderson has done, and led in that state, Matthew, for me, New Mexico is a shining example. Can you just take us through the hard work you’ve done and talk a little bit about how politics has come into it? You were already telling me a little bit about primarying some Democrats who are not on the side of childcare and early education in that state. Tell us what the landscape was and how it’s looking now?

Matthew Henderson  14:09

Well, we are about to reach the fruition of a 12 year campaign in New Mexico. In November, voters will have the chance to ratify an early childhood education constitutional amendment will be the first state in the country that mentions early childhood education and its constitution I believe, but more importantly, the measure will tap new Mexico’s land grant Permanent Fund, which has about $22 billion in IT and direct about $175 million a year to New Mexico’s early childhood education and care department.

Gloria Riviera  14:49

And I’m just gonna jump in for a moment there to say that the land grant is how New Mexico funds many programs but you’ll be tapping into a deeper degree to fund childcare and early education does not every state has that fund, right?

Matthew Henderson  15:05

Most states had a similar fund at some point, and some states have spent it all. And as is the case in New Mexico, most states use their funds to fund K through 12 education. And we couldn’t use the fund to fund early childhood education because our state constitution says that education begins at age five. So we’re changing the definition of education to start at birth, and also creating a revenue stream that will for the first time, I think, ensure that we have more state revenue than federal revenue funding, access, funding, the creation of more childcare, childcare providers, and childcare deserts. And the thing that’s sort of most important to us at this particular moment, funding professional compensation to early childhood educators. They’re really the champions here who’ve done the lion’s share of the work in New Mexico, fighting not just for passing the constitutional amendment, but for fighting for the establishment of the early childhood education care department, which is the first in our country, and in a number of other reforms that have sort of set the stage for this moment for us. But as you mentioned, it wasn’t easy. We first introduced our constitutional amendment in 2010. And did so every year after that, and we had great success, we always pass the House. But we always hit a roadblock with a small group of Democratic senators who we lobbied. We did actions on, we talked to and tried to persuade.

Gloria Riviera  16:57

And Matthew, what was their opposition?

Matthew Henderson  17:02

You know, of course, evolved over the course of the decade. You know, they said that the fund was meant for future generations, not our current generation, they said sort of nonsensical things like that were really just talking points that, you know, did galvanize some others against us. But the thing that one was, of course, really bringing out racial equity issues, really surfacing the misogyny in our legislature that preserved this opposition. And that’s what really galvanized our members and allies to unseat five of these senators in the 2020 primary elections. So we basically challenged five of the most powerful people in the state, we unseated the Senate Pro Tem, we unseated the Senate Finance chairman and the corporation’s committee chairman, along with others, we really had to reshape our legislature in a way that allowed us to the very following session passed the amendment so that it could go to the voters.

Gloria Riviera  18:14

And you’re saying this was led by the teachers themselves who are right now earning poverty level wages that they were a key factor, as if they don’t have enough to do, right?

Matthew Henderson  18:24

Yeah. And parents as well. We certainly had a lot of providers, but we had a lot of parents as well.

Gloria Riviera  18:30

Well, we’ll all be watching in November. I know Matthew was telling me before the polling is looking really good right now. And he’s hoping that it looks even better, so that there’s really something to celebrate November in New Mexico. I just want to remind everybody that we are taking questions throughout this hour, we have our first question. And that is, is there a chance that childcare will be a priority, again, at the federal level, under this administration? I mean, we are all hoping that it is a priority. It is just not a priority that’s being supported with dollars at the moment. Who wants to take that question? And Matthew, why don’t you take that question, then we’ll go really quickly down the line to Sarah and Nicole.

Matthew Henderson  19:15

Yeah, thanks. I mean, Olay is part of a national movement of early educators and parents largely of color across the country fighting this fight at their state and the federal level. So we were very much involved in the build back better campaign to pass that legislation, which had really good funding for early childhood education and had provisions in it that mandate livable wages for early educators that had a lot of good stuff. And there are a lot of great champions in Congress, but I think we all know that things are very challenging in Congress right now. And until we get a better Congress that really shares our values, it’s going to continue to be a fight. And that’s why we believe it has to be done on multiple fronts. state, local and federal.

Gloria Riviera  20:18

Yeah. Well, Matthew might be the person to lead that since you’ve had success in New Mexico, you can come and clean up the other states if there’s any opposition. Sarah, what  is your response to that? I mean, you and I rode that build back better roller coaster together. I remember having a conversation with you when it was no longer. What do you see out there? And do you feel like this administration or I guess, both sides of the aisle? What kind of priority is it right now?

Sarah Muncey  20:52

Well, it’s only going to be a priority for folks in office if they think we vote on it. So I think how soon, we hear about transformative legislation, like build back better coming again. And the way how soon we start keeping childcare off the chopping block, because it’s always one of those things that’s on the chopping block, really depends on a mobilization of parents, and educators. But educators have really carried, as you mentioned, sort of the weight and the brunt of this effort, when like, it really is going to take parents and business leaders and grandparents and your friend at work, who sees you struggling to tell folks in office that they’re gonna vote on this, that they’re watching that they know, it’s fixable, because that’s another thing about childcare. So you really have to feel empowered to say, like, surely we can do this, because they will pat you on the head and tell you it’s complicated. You know, and it is complicated. Government is supposed to be complicated, like, these are big, complicated things that we do. And it’s not more complicated than K12. And it’s not more complicated than the Affordable Care Act. So they need to know that we’re calling them on it. That really, it’s time. And that really is going to be about parents and all of those other people wrapping around child care providers, centering the providers, who should be the voice and sort of the center of this fight. But it’s going to take a whole army of people behind them. And we have to be ready to be that even after our kids are five.

Gloria Riviera  22:57

We have another question. It’s about a point that you made that people don’t care about childcare until they have to. And it was so poignant, because, you know, I was not googling well, I was not Googling when my children were born. But I was not looking up how much even an hourly babysitter would cost I was focused on other things. What is or when will the opportunity come again, to reframe this issue of increasing support for families? Are we in it right now? Is it happening right now to Sarah’s point, the people who are bringing it to the forefront?

Nicole Mason  23:34

So if you ask me that the first question, I would just say no, I mean, I think we can beat around the bush and we need to do this and the administration cares about care, child care, but the answer is no. Will we get the opportunity again, or this Overton window to go at care the way we did at the beginning of this administration? Probably not. And because one we all thought that the pandemic certainly the pandemic would have changed. If you never thought about childcare if you never thought about working moms, it was everywhere. And women had we started hearing all these stories in the media about women struggling with childcare families struggling with childcare. So it seemed like a no brainer, until it wasn’t until we realized that American families plan was not going to pass. And I think we should just be honest about that. Because then when we do we start to be honest about it, we can start from a different place and start thinking about different kinds of strategies, whether that’s changing Congress or doing something else, but I want to say women got on that women and families rally. We show them all the numbers, you know, we for a fact IWPR. Ran the numbers about how much families would save with American families plan, and none of that mattered. We got up to the door and we didn’t get what we can for. So I’m hoping that we can put our heads together and really think about a strategy, a winning strategy, that when we get up to the line, we actually get it across.

Gloria Riviera  25:11

I think that it’s valuable to say, let’s be real about where we are right now. And it’s been tough, but we are where we are. And as I said, I’m an optimist. And I wonder, Nicole, what you make of and you know, Sarah, and Matthew as well, these Democrats that were unseated, because they didn’t support this issue. I mean, we’re talking about are you, are you not a childcare voter. And I have to tell you, before I did this podcast, I would not have defined myself as a childcare voter. And in one of the episodes, we sort of I recorded myself trying to find my representative trying to see if she was on board. And it was, you know, sort of being on an endless hamster wheel. She is on board. Thankfully, I live in Washington, DC. But do you think that the fact these five Democrats in New Mexico lost their seat? Does that send a message to the rest of the country? Matthew?

Matthew Henderson  26:01

Yeah, but I think it’s a message that has to be repeated often, until we get to where we need to go, you know, the sort of condescending attitudes that Sara and others have encountered. Lobbying around this kind of work is pervasive, it’s everywhere. And, you know, one thing we know about legislators is they often do think of themselves as sort of untouchable and it’s the job of parents and early educators to show them that that’s not the case. But the good news is, you know, in every district, every legislative district, city council, district, congressional district, there are a lot of parents with young children. And there are a lot of early educators. It’s something that impacts every single part of our country. So the opportunity to organize and fight and win is terrific.

Gloria Riviera  27:03

I’m wondering what you, Sarah, Nicole, if you, Matthew, all of you when you come into contact with teachers, and we all know that childcare is one industry in which the number is pre pandemic have just not come back. More people are leaving, the struggle is real. WBUR did an incredible series on the cost of child care. And I remember, there’s a woman named Bernadette who brought the reporter into an empty classroom. And the reporter asked, what is this? Well, this classroom used to hold welcome 20 children every day, and there are no children in that classroom because they cannot find someone to hire to teach those kids. So it hurts, it hurts. My question is, how do we approach that facet of this issue right now? Because that’s something that we have to address sooner rather than later, Sarah?

Sarah Muncey  27:54

So no one is coming to save us the name of the podcast is like one of neighborhood villages, like one of our like, really grounding rules that like we must try, like, yes, tell me why it’s hard. But we must try something. It’s didn’t seem like anyone’s out there making this happen. But the second rule is that it’s not rocket science. And it’s not this is doable. And so when you look at how complicated childcare is, it’s very simple. First, you have to pay teachers, a professional wage. That is number one. It is like fixes 80% of what’s wrong in childcare. It fixes that classroom that stark we have people in this audience, Lauren Cook is right there, like who have from Ellis who have classrooms, every single childcare center that I know of, has a classroom with their lights off. And every single one, if you look at a diagram, well, this, this mom was a nurse, this dad did this, and you start looking at what the trickle and the dominoes from that classroom closing, if you did one thing to fix childcare, it would be to pay people freshman wages, how much that cost is a lot. So seventh grade. But until we do that, we can’t fix childcare, it’s always going to be a crisis. And so that’s takes looking at it as a public good. There’s no other solution. Because the simp the problem is so simple in the wages, it’s very complicated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to like, simplify it too much. But that’s what it comes down to is that these are teachers, educators, doing the most important learning that will happen in our country on any given day, week or year. And you make $24 an hour at Target right now. And I always like to think about it in these terms of volunteerism, we like expect child care providers to for their passion to make it such that they should want to volunteer and subsidize the whole system. The whole system’s already subsidized. It’s just subsidized by childcare providers. And so I think that’s actually we can like rest real easy on the fact that like fixing this is actually very simple. You pay people what they’re worth.

Sarah Muncey  28:15

You value them. And Nicole, you wrote an Evoque in July 2020, reflecting on your early days as a mother that you had internalized the responsibility and burden of care. And that line stayed with me and stopped me in my tracks, because I think it takes a step back and looks at the met a message of how we value parents, mothers, especially any type of caregiver. Can you talk about that, across child care in the US as a whole, and what that mental attitude, mostly women, it’s women who are taking it on men to any who becomes a parent any way they get to that role. And why it’s detrimental?

Nicole Mason  30:57

Well, because when we can’t figure it out, we blame ourselves, when we can’t make care work. We blame ourselves, when we can’t afford care, we blame ourselves instead of looking at a broken system, and that’s what I thankfully, one of the good things that came out of the pandemic is that we did stop looking at it as like, I can’t figure it out and realize that the system was broken, which I think allowed us to have a different kind of conversation. And just picking up something, something that Sarah said about, you know, just paying people a professional wage. But one of the things that’s really important, and I know, we talked about this, and I know we’re going to talk about equity, but most childcare providers are women of color. And so you know, we are subsidizing the childcare system on the backs of, you know, low income women and women of color. And so it is about professionalizing the wages, but it’s also looking at the treatment of women of color workers historically, and our comfort with that, because it’s historic. And in addition to the professional wage, I think it’s really also important to think about like benefits, you know, because even when, you know, we’re paying for care it there’s so much more that goes into the professionalization of early care and education, training education.

Gloria Riviera  32:28

It always strikes me that you can have a lot of letters behind your name, there was someone in the WBR series who had two master’s degrees and associate degree, a BA, so highly qualified to provide care and education for our youngest learners. And yet she couldn’t make it work. And that’s why people are leaving, because they are going to other jobs in which they will have a little bit of breathing room. And we’re in this moment now, where the America rescue plan, the money for that is no longer so the squeeze will feel even tighter. As we’ve looked at all the options out there, early in my reporting early in my thinking about this, I thought, well, what about public school? My daughter is in public school, it’s a great school, why don’t we draw down public school? And I just think, for those who are listening digitally and for the audience here, let’s be clear about why that’s an idea that’s not viable.

Sarah Muncey  33:34

Don’t mind if I do. It does sound great, because we can wrap our heads around the infrastructure that it takes to run the K12 system, even if there is pervasive inequity and a lot of work we need to do in the K12 system. People understand K 12 operations, what it takes to run a school district, what it takes to run, you know, a school system. And so people are comfortable saying like, let’s grow it down. Well, the first thing that happens when you grow it down in a city it when you have universal pre K is that you really have to be careful at how you do it because it can decimate the childcare market. When you pull a lot of four year old’s out of our childcare centers and family childcare homes you’re taking. I don’t like to talk about children as like expensive, but you’re taking the folks whose daily care actually cost the least because the ratios are a little different. As you get older, you’re pulling them out of an already broken market. And you’re leaving a city that has really robust universal childcare. If it’s not done really thoughtfully, in coalition and in partnership with community, you’re really going to close a lot of centers, and so all the infant seats go away. So that’s the first unintended consequence. The second is they go to four year old’s, and then they go to three year old’s and then they’re like, oh my gosh, what if to change diapers for some of these kids? There’s the K12 system and they will tell you this folks at any public school system will tell you don’t want zero to five, it’s different. zero to five is a different space than K12. It’s very highly integrated with how the family is doing how mom is doing is how baby is doing. So in K12. Yes, it’s nice that you have wraparound support programming, in zero to five, that’s actually like how mom is doing is like the biggest indicator of how you’re going to be able to, you know, show that you’re doing right by the child in terms of their development. It’s really integrated with how that’s really integrated with families, it takes different spaces, sometimes like physical spaces. So what makes a lot of sense and apart, you know, in if we can grow it down. And that’s the way we get to a childcare system, I’m all for it. What would be really beautiful, is a robust health integrated trauma informed like system for zero to five, that wraps around families and children. And then a handshake, when you hand off to kindergarten doesn’t just say this is Sarah. But this is Sarah, and this is when you know, this is what we sort of can tell you about her growth and development and what we’ve done so far, and who she is as a whole person.

Gloria Riviera  36:05

It makes me think that when I was reporting in Sweden about how they approached childcare, I mean, the woman I was interviewing just must have seen it on my face, I was in continual shock at everything I saw. And she said, well, in your country, K through 12 is for the child. But here early education is really for the family, it’s for the parents, it’s for the parents and the child, like as if it was totally normal to have concern about the parents as well as the child. And in the course of our reporting, for no one is coming to save us. We looked at Quebec, which in 1996, I think which is not so long ago, in one of the provinces started childcare at $5. A day, last time I checked, it was $8 a day. And they saw there the number of women in the workforce spike, you know, that was one of the first things they saw, they saw, of course, the tax dollars go up in that province, all the things. I mean, we can say it a million times. But all the things that are positive happen when we support families and parents from zero to five. Nicole, when you look at where we are now, and you mentioned that we have to be real about where we are now. And the fact that build back better is no longer when you look at history and what has been proposed in the past because we saw essentially, the comprehensive child care plan proposed by Mondale 50 years earlier, is what we are asking for going to change or is it how we asked for it.

Nicole Mason  37:37

So, I think we should ask for what we need and start there, start the negotiation at the place where we want to be not what we think we’ll get. And so there’s a difference. So if we think we need universal childcare where no family pays, it’s free. But that’s what I would want. But the minute you start, you start at a place where you say, well, maybe no more than 7%. No more than 10%. You know, you’re already negotiating down, you know, but if we can start with what we really want. And we’ve been talking to Lauren, and I’ve been talking about, like, let’s break out, it’s not a pen and paper but and really think about what the true costs of a system to build the system that we need, and start there. And that’s what I would like to do, I would just like to start in a different place with like the vision for what we want. And, you know, figure out how we get it.

Gloria Riviera  38:42

Matthew, do you think that’s where you are in New Mexico? I hope to be after November that you will have this vision that you’ve fought for I know more than 10 years, because one of the questions is are there are there any bipartisan solutions? And you’ve been in a unique spot of, you know, running a primary against Democrats that weren’t on board? Are there any bipartisan solutions to improve child care at the state or federal level? That’s one of the questions that we got.

Matthew Henderson  39:05

Well, I you know, I think the bipartisan nature is something that will vary from place to place. But yeah, I do think that that’s exactly right, that we need to create the vision of what parents actually want for their children. What is actually good for the early education workforce and then start to build it. You know, in addition to creating an early childhood education care department in New Mexico, Governor Lujan Grisham, increased income eligibility to 400% and did away with CO payments. You know, these are just some of the bold steps we can take to incrementally build that system that we want.

Gloria Riviera  39:55

I’m interested to stop you at the 400% so it’s very clear so talk us through exactly what 400% Of what means and how much that expands the families who are eligible for help with childcare?

Matthew Henderson  40:09

Yeah, so that’s 400% of the federal poverty level.

Gloria Riviera  40:14

I mean, that’s huge. 400% is a significant expansion.

Matthew Henderson  40:18

Yeah, that’s getting into some middle class families, for sure. And, you know, please correct me if I’m wrong, I think the federal childcare block grants are only used only provide subsidies for parents making up to maybe 250% of that. So to get to a place where childcare is affordable or free for everyone, we have to do a lot of stuff that the federal government hasn’t done yet. And so we need to think about a lot of other components as well and start building it and demonstrating that it can be done. New Mexico has made some real progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Gloria Riviera  41:06

And what do you plan for once? Let’s project a year say it’s 2023? I mean, do people come to you and say, you know, how do we do this in our own state? And what are your plans for showcasing what New Mexico is able to do?

Matthew Henderson  41:20

Just this past weekend, we had allies from all over the West, parent ambassadors from Washington, state Parent Voices from California, and a lot of other organizations turned out parents to Albuquerque to help get out the vote. These are just some of the organizations that are leading the national movement and the movement in their states. And yeah, they came in part because they wanted to see for themselves what we’re doing. But also because they wanted to, you know, build something significant, so that they can turn around and do it in their own states. It’s only with successes like this, that, you know, some people that are sort of fencing can get off the couch and start to really embrace the vision for building a model childcare system.

Gloria Riviera  42:12

And what is the messaging that you get from the Democrats that were unseated? Have you been in touch with their campaign managers? Have you gotten a sense for how they’re feeling now?

Matthew Henderson  42:23

It’s just sour grapes and, you know, be beating up the left and that kind of stuff? You know, it’s not that different from the kinds of things you hear from Ron DeSantis. To tell you the truth. It’s clear that they haven’t learned anything. But it’s also clear that, that they lost. And we have a lot of great champions in the legislature in New Mexico now who were more loud and clear about the movement that they’re helping to champion.

Gloria Riviera  43:17

So when you hear what Matthew has to say, both of you, I have this question, what is your takeaway for what needs to be done? One of the questions I always like to ask at the end of my podcast is what is giving us hope? And I feel like we have a bevy of hope right here in New Mexico. So what are you hearing that you think would be most useful?

Sarah Muncey  43:36

Well, it’s got to be a two pronged approach. And we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. So we have to do exactly what has been done in New Mexico everywhere at a state level. We have to get our foot in the door to say like, no, we’re talking about real money. Someone in the K12. Sector told us the other day, Lauren and I on a call that we were talking about a piece of legislation that passed here in Massachusetts that really, you know, was great for K 12 kids, and we’re talking about how did you get to that number? He said, the first number they brought us we just it was ridiculous. We just said no, we don’t do that in childcare. It’s exactly what Nicole was just talking about. We say like, let’s start down here. Because all we’re used to getting our crumbs. So we need to do that. At the same time. There’s this whole other unsexy body of work that I’ve I love, I think it’s very sexy, but that is showing what the infrastructure looks like. So like in this room, just looking around this room, there’s so many people in this room from the neighboring villages team from schools that we work with, from schools that we admire, from places around the city, who are doing the real work. So we need to pilot the kind of infrastructure we can talk about teacher training, you know, neighborhood villages, we’re so grateful to get to work in partnership with the Department of Early Care and Education to operate the professional Pathways program where neighbor Advil just sort of in the middle of the field, all the teachers and all the community care ologists so we can say, Yes, I can find you class in Portuguese that meets at this time and that kind of that job of those people, that’s the infrastructure, that we need to start to think about the COVID testing that, you know, we were able to do here, and some folks were able to do and other states sort of showed what infrastructure looks like and childcare, training, business training, ta offering all these different kinds of supports, there’s a lot of work to do. And our job as a field is to pilot things, figure out what’s work, what works, and then take them like Lego pieces, and put them together into something more seamless, more integrated, because we have to be ready, when all of that amazing organizing gets legislation across the finish line. This isn’t like some other fields, where there’s like 50 case studies, there’s never been any money in childcare. So when Nicole talks about the work that she and Lauren have been diving into in the true cost of care, we’re literally being like, what else should be there? Like, what all should be in a school? What are the jobs? And it’s not like other fields where you’re pointing to something, you know, so we actually have to get the legislation passed, and right now be showing what it’s going to look like, in real time.

Gloria Riviera  46:17

Right. And I think what you’re talking about is that reason, neighborhood villages, made a conscious choice to work within structures that already exists, because I know, Sarah drew up a whole plan for creating a new school. And that was not going to work. That’s not the way to do it. Nicole, same question for you. And also a little bit of a more policy question. You said before, you never thought about the cost of childcare, what now we’ll never make you take us off your plate.

Nicole Mason  46:48

So what I’m excited about is that I love what’s happening in New Mexico, I love what’s happening in Portland, I love what’s happening in Boston, I, I think that states are laboratories, and in the absence of federal action, that’s where we can experiment. And so in New Mexico, it’s a constitutional amendment. In Michigan, it might be a ballot initiative. But we need to see it working. So, we can take those models that are working and try to run them in other states, until we can build the case for federal infrastructure. So I’m really excited about that. I love the new met, you know, what’s happening in New Mexico and elsewhere. So that’s what gets me excited, because I can’t wait to see, you know, the experimentation that will be happening across the country. In the absence of these larger plans, and the, you know, expansion of the funds from during COVID. To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this thing that you know, what you said about being a child care voter, it’s like, what does that even mean? Is that like a pro-choice voter? I mean, like, I’m really thinking about, you know, what I think about when I go to the polls, like, you know, I, you know, I wouldn’t vote for a person who is I don’t know, that may not share the same values as me or, you know, I wouldn’t vote in this moment, I wouldn’t vote for a person who was not pro reproductive health or something. And so what might it take for us to get to a place where there are, there is a such thing as a care you know, voter, it’s not going to come off of my plate, my kids are older I, you know, frankly, they don’t, I just am a chauffeur and ATM at this point. But, you know, it’s never come kind of come off my plate, because I remember how I felt when I couldn’t afford care. And also when I was so I never, I didn’t finish the story. But I got to a point where working the way I was working, and paying for care was unsustainable in that way. And often, the story is framed that women off ramp to begin their families, and it’s a really good thing. But the truth of the matter is, is it’s really not a choice, it’s a constrained choice, because workplaces, and the workforce is not set up for working moms. And so it’s never kind of come off my plate until that changes, how work is structured, how we think about work. And that’s really what I do all day and think about all day at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Gloria Riviera  49:39

One of the great joys of doing this podcast is that I get to learn as I go and I think early on just as we’re talking about drawing down the public school system. I asked someone I was interviewing Well, well, it’s you know, I’ve heard a lot of businesses are providing childcare and why is that a bad idea? And there’s a very smart man who dedicated his life to childcare, […], who said, well, what if you want to change jobs? That’s like, oh, right, right, right, right, right. All these all these very basic ideas that lead us back to a federally funded supportive childcare system. And to that point, we have a question, which I’ve seen in real life when I’ve spoken to early educators. And the question is, educators are tired, parents are tired, and who can blame them? What are your recommendations for how to galvanize in other states and really wake people up. And I will speak from just sort of an emotional level. I’ve done a few events where people have prepped me for them. And they’ve said, you know, these women and majority women of color in the audience, they’re tired, they don’t feel seen, they feel undervalued, they need to hear something from you to make them feel like what they’re doing matters, because the empty classrooms, you know, break something within them, and they don’t want to see those, but they’re still coming every day to work. So that’s what gives me hope. And communicating that message, you are valued, your work is valued, we need you, that’s a huge thing. And I think when the first season launched in May of 2021, that was right, when the New York Times ran a series called The Primal Scream, it was profiles of different mothers just all at a breaking point that was not sustainable, the way you were working was not sustainable. So you get unfortunately, in this country, you get to a point where your back is about to break, and you can’t do it. And that’s the moment where you need to take a deep breath and realize that we need you. We need you to show up, put on the t shirt go to the protests, use your voice, it’s happened. That’s what’s so exciting about New Mexico, it’s it has happened in this country in certain places where two sides have come together. In Portland, it was you know, two different groups that were both progressive, but still not agreeing. And they found a way to compromise and pass universal pre K for three year old’s and four year old’s. So that’s my message to those who are tired parents, educators, we see you, we’re here for you. My oldest is 14, your twins are about to be 14, we don’t,  we remember what it felt like. And, you know, that’s as women with good jobs that were on the up and up but with family help. So when your back is up against the wall, you have to double down and keep going. I always say onward and all my emails to the no one is coming to save us team, I say onward. What do you guys, think, Matthew, I’ll start with you. Because no doubt you’ve spoken to a lot of early educators who are just at their wit’s end.

Matthew Henderson  52:40

Oh, absolutely. And parents as well. You know, I think you need to take your first step. And the truth is angry and tired as you are, there’s no better way to deal with that than to start talking to legislators or hold. You know, we held all sorts of small child sit ins in at our state capitol, having circled time and senators offices, doing things like that to really shut things down and force legislators to pay attention. Because you have to have fun while you’re building the solidarity with all your co-workers and other parents that you know, so that you’re really a cohesive group, because it will take time, you do have to go to the distance. But you know, it doesn’t take a ballot measure everywhere to start making changes. Every state legislature has a line item in their budget for childcare. You know, you can start advocating in the next session to increase the spending on childcare while you develop, you know, more sophisticated strategies to create huge revenue streams. The point is, is to get together, look for allies and have fun while you’re doing it.

Gloria Riviera  54:06

What’s not fun about circle time? That’s very fun. And I will also say all of these candidates are always out talking to people, they’re always out talking to people. And when I covered candidates, nobody asked about childcare. I mean,  that was in the early 2000s, mid-2000s. Go out there and ask him about child care what is your position? What do you think should be done with that line item in our state’s budget? Regarding childcare? Do you guys have anything else to add Sarah Nicole on what how to galvanize people right now in this moment? I feel like I’m always asking this question. Things have been on the up and up and then we’ve been down and intent on being optimistic.

Sarah Muncey  54:45

Well, I’m pointing to Latoya Gale, she can raise her hands one of my most inspiring friends and the Senior Director of Advocacy at neighborhood villages. If you go to the Neighborhood Villages Action Fund website, you can get a bumper sticker I says, I’m a childcare voter, or a t shirt, you can bring those words that sort of vocabulary into the lexicon. Every, I tried to put myself in rooms with politicians as much as possible. I know that’s weird. It’s like a weird thing about me. That’s always been. And when I do, I’ve learned that every single time my hand goes up, and it stays up until I get a chance to talk. And I just asked them a question about child care, whether they’re from Kentucky, or they’re from Maine, I want to hear their answer. And I want to hear like, you know, you’re […], sorry, I did it again. That’s the family podcast. But I want to hear like, it is an issue that you have studied that, like, you’re gonna go back to your staff and say, like, what are we doing about childcare, we have to ask about it and talk about it a lot. And not only to politicians, we have to be in a meeting for work and think about, oh, wait a minute. Sarah has a two year old, and I’m trying to make this meeting at 4:45. And I know she’s gonna be able to go and she wants to be on this project. We, as employers need to do that. If we’re running schools, we need to do that. If we’re parents, we can and this is coming from a place of privilege. And I know that you can only do this if you feel comfortable enough doing it, but talking about your kids at work, saying I can’t make a 4:45 meeting I leave at 4:30, remember, like we are taught to not do that. The pandemic made kids not invisible because they were literally visible. And so I think that we need to keep that going a little bit. Because we are pleasers, and we want you to think that everything’s fine boss, and that like I can do this and be fine. But you know, so I just think that’s another thing is that make it is everybody’s problem. This is everybody’s problem. This is not some predicament I’m in because I went out and got myself pregnant. Like, we have to replenish society, we have to have children. And so this is everyone’s problem. And we can stand firmly in saying that it needs to be a solution that works for everyone too.

Gloria Riviera  57:06

I mean, I want to say thank you to all of you for being here with me tonight for helping us articulate, say out loud, all the things that need to be said. I’m so grateful to both Lemonada Media and Neighborhood Villages. And both of you Matthew and Nicole here tonight. You know, really Lemonada will say we talk about the hard things we make life suck less. And they take on really difficult topics. This is one of them. But I mean, in the course of hosting this show, I have laughed a lot. I have felt connected to a lot of people, parents, early educators who are very tired, but also very determined. And that’s what gives me hope as we continue with this show. And I want to say thank you to all of you for coming. Thank you so much.

Gloria Riviera  58:07

Wasn’t that so fun? Thank you to our three incredible guests, Nicole, Sarah and Matthew and a big thank you as well to Neighborhood Villages and WBUR for making this event happen. It was so great to meet some of you, our no one is coming to save us community in person. And I hope we can do it again soon. All right, that’s all for this week. We will be back next Thursday with another great episode that I cannot wait for you to hear. Thank you all so much for listening.

CREDITS  58:48

NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US is a Lemonada Media original presented by and created with Neighborhood Villages. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen. Veronica Rodriguez is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, and me Gloria Riviera. If you like the show, and you believe what we’re doing is important. Please help others find us by leaving us a rating and writing us a review. Do you have your own experiences and frustrations with the childcare system? Do you have ideas for what we could do to make it better? Join the No One Is Coming To Save Us Facebook group where we can continue the conversation together. You can also follow us and other Lemonada podcasts at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. Thank you so much for listening. We will be back next week. Until then hang in there. You can do it.

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