Black women from across the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County released demands on May 15 of state and local leadership to prioritize early childhood education providers in pandemic response.
“There is no reopening our economy without the individuals and centers that care for babies and children while their parents are at work,” said Ellicia Lanier, mother, executive director of Urban Sprouts Child Development Center, and member of the Ready by Five Steering Committee. ‘Childcare providers are choosing between our livelihood and our lives as we make decisions about reopening.”
Too many community-based and home-based childcare providers do not have the resources they need to reopen safely for their staff, their children, and their families, she said.
The evidence is strong that young children are frequent transmitters of COVID-19, which is why providers, parents and advocates say they are demanding urgency to prepare childcare providers to reopen from the following elected leaders and organizations: Gov. Mike Parson, Missouri Department of Social Services, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Council, St. Louis City Board of Aldermen, and St. Louis City and County Health Departments.
“To protect our communities from further spread of COVID-19, we need the support to open safely,” said Rochelle Bea, owner and operator of Beginning Futures Learning Center. “Our underfunded early childhood education system is already stretched too thin and with delayed payments to state-funded programs over the past two months that may never come, we do not have the resources to purchase the necessary materials to follow CDC guidelines for childcare. Our region has already lost at least two early childhood educators to COVID-19, do not let us lose any more.”
The group’s demands can be read in full and signed by individuals and organizations who support them at readybyfive.com/demands. They include:
● St. Louis County must earmark $20 million and St. Louis City must earmark $5 million of CARES Act funds specifically and exclusively for ECE stabilization funds
● The St. Louis County Council should place a measure on the November 2020 ballot to establish local, dedicated funding for community-based and public school early childhood (0-5 years old) programs.
● Appoint a council that includes an infectious disease expert working with ECE and health experts to vet and clearly communicate regionally-aligned policies and guidelines.
● All open or reopening ECE providers must be given four weeks’ worth of effective personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost and continue to receive said PPE until medical experts agree it is safe to operate without it.
● All open or reopening ECE providers must be given four weeks’ worth of effective sanitation and screening supplies (e.g., thermometers) at no cost and continue to receive said supplies until there is a consensus among medical experts that such precautions are no longer required.
● All open or reopening ECE providers and staff must receive guidance and monthly training.
● Increase protection and benefits to early childhood educators and workers.
Lanier said, “We must prioritize their health and safety immediately, our entire region depends on it.”