For the first time ever, Santa Clara County has calculated exactly how much money it spends on services that support children.
A coalition led by supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Cindy Chavez joined child advocates at a press conference on Monday to unveil the inaugural Children’s Budget, which shows that just 2 percent of the county’s general funds ($170 million) goes toward the youngest residents. That amount increases to 10 percent ($859 million) if state and federal dollars are added to the mix.
Ellenberg, who led the charge to create the spending report, said it offers a critical baseline that should give local leaders a better sense of how to prioritize resources.
“Santa Clara County needs to prioritize children because doing so is the single most important investment a society makes in its future,” she said. “We are unable to accomplish that goal without first knowing where we currently stand.”
Of the county’s nearly 2 million residents, about 450,000 are children under the age of 18. And a third of the 100,000 between the ages of infancy and 2 years old lack child care, which is why Ellenberg and Chavez are also requesting a $3 million investment to improve daycare facilities.
“Child care has become a barrier to work and economic stability, especially for mothers, who disproportionately become the unpaid caregivers when the family cannot find or afford child care,” Chavez said in a news release. “Businesses meanwhile lose billions because of their employees’ child care challenges. There is a direct link between access to child care, parental employment and economic growth.”
In 2018, the average cost of child care at licensed facilities in Silicon Valley came to about $20,900 per year for infants and $15,300 per year for preschoolers, according to Child Care Aware of America. If the funding referral gets approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the county will report back in January 2020 with a plan on how to allocate the investment—and how to ramp up child care resources going forward.
The board this week will also consider implementing a child care subsidy for the county’s 20,000 employees. If the referral wins enough votes, the county will begin exploring options to carve out additional child care funds from state and federal allocations.
The supervisors’ referral says that the county “must prioritize the need to include child care space on county property. All developers must consider the benefits of including child care facilities as part of their project.”
The supervisors also suggested using Measure A funds—the $950 million housing bond—to build child care facilities at senior care homes.
Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan applauded the new Children’s Budget, which gives local educators and advocates enormous leverage to demand more resources for children’s needs from government agencies, philanthropists and the private sector.
“Budgets can be a statement of values; representing the investments a community is making in areas of priorities,” she said. “The Children’s Budget represents a stake in the ground—that children and families are a priority.”
First 5 Santa Clara County CEO Jolene Smith echoed Dewan’s point.
“Children in Santa Clara County represent almost 25 percent of our population yet they represent 100 percent of our future,” she said. “Through partnership and leveraging of local, state, federal, philanthropic, and private dollars, we can ensure our youngest residents can access the needed supports that will enable them to thrive. The Children’s Budget takes a giant collaborative step forward to creating long-lasting, generational impact in the lives of all children and families in our county.”
The Board of Supervisors meets at 9:30am Tuesday. Click here to read the full agenda.