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    Let’s Give Oakland a Head Start

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large–

    On December 7, 2021, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to approve the resolution from me, Council President Fortunato Bas, Council Member Fife, and President Pro Tem Thao directing the City Administrator to ensure Head Start/Early Head Start is adequately funded now and in the future—including preventing staffing layoffs.

    The backbone of Early Head Start and Head Start membership is overwhelmingly Black women and people of color, who have historically and disproportionately borne the brunt of the economic difficulties our society experiences. Furthermore, these communities are also disparately impacted when childcare is not available. It is vital to engage frontline workers directly impacted by investments, and to center conversations around these workers in a transparent budget process.

    Stable funding ensures staff retention, and that existing Head Start/Early Head Start facilities are properly maintained. To ensure equitable sustainability and prosperity of Oakland’s Head Start/Early Head Start programming, these Councilmembers applaud their colleagues’ support for their resolution that will require that if Head Start/Early Head Start programs are restructured or reorganized before June 2022, all existing staff, who represent decades of experience and expertise serving low-income communities of color in Oakland, are retained.

    Further, the City Administrator will be required to return to Council with a budget amendment to the biennial budget for fiscal years 2021–2023 that fully funds all of the City of Oakland’s Head Start/Early Head Start programming no later than May 2022 when the fiscal year 2022–2023 midcycle budget amendments will be considered. Finally, the resolution requires the Human Services Department to create a transparent, strategic planning process for the operation and management of the Head Start/Early Head Start programs.

    The fight to save the Head Start/Early Head Start program for all of Oakland, especially those most in need, has been an ongoing battle in recent months. On September 1, 2021, Resolution No. 88801 C.M.S., introduced by me, Council President Fortunato Bas, Council Member Fife, and President Pro Tem Thao, was approved by the full Oakland City Council, providing $1.836 million to restore Head Start/Early Head Start services in Oakland, and supporting the re-opening of the Arroyo, Franklin, and Tassafaronga Head Start/Early Head Start centers. The Councilmembers prevented the closures of these three Head Start Centers.

    It is a high priority that these centers remain open as they serve children and families in Oakland’s most impacted communities and provide stability to the mostly women of color workers who have been serving our community for generations. The Councilmembers took timely action to prevent layoffs and cuts from taking place by calling for an urgent Special Council meeting and vote prior to the date of the planned closures.

    We must prioritize equity in our city’s COVID-19 recovery plan and allowing our most impacted communities to have vitally needed services is a high priority. Head Start is an important program that helps children, with lifelong positive impacts on their future, and ensures access to economic recovery for struggling working parents. The Administration’s plan to close these needed centers and layoff these essential workers, while hiding the information from the Council and the public for months, is inappropriate. 

    We need to provide equity and transparency and protect vital services for our communities. I thank everyone who helped pass this important plan to save Head Start and to support providing these services for all of Oakland’s communities.

    Rebecca Kaplan represents the entire City of Oakland as its Councilmember At-Large and Vice Mayor. She has served Oakland as a citywide elected official for ten years, working to improve quality of life by enhancing economic opportunity, public safety, and vibrancy in Oakland. She was re-elected in 2016 and 2020, and also serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission. Follow Vice Mayor Kaplan on Twitter @Kaplan4Oakland (https://twitter.com/Kaplan4Oakland) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Kaplan4Oakland/).

    Published on December 16, 2021