Story written and published by Bay City News
After having her first child, Lorena Wright left her job as a restaurant manager and started a day care center from her South San Jose home. Wright led a tour through her residence this morning for local elected officials to raise attention the need for higher pay for child care workers, just days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that will raise the state’s hourly minimum wage for most employees to $15 an hour by 2022.
Child care workers are excluded from the new law. The local leaders and child care advocates at today’s tour called for the establishment of a $15 equivalent for workers like Wright. Wright started the day care eight years ago from her home to look after children from birth to 12 years old and dreams of one day moving her operation to a center.
During today’s tour, Wright led the local leaders through her tidy one-story home, where she can care for up to eight children in a day. While they were inside, music was playing from the backyard where an assistant was caring for six children as they played. A large room at the rear of the home was filled with rows of books, colorful artwork on the walls, cubbies, organized shelves, labeled containers for toys and a small activity table.
A schedule posted in the kitchen showed that the center runs from 6:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with numerous activities in between from nap time to
outdoor play. Wright said she’s passionate about her work in nurturing and educating children, but feels child care providers aren’t getting paid enough to provide for their own families.
After the tour, Santa Clara County and San Jose leaders echoed Wright’s concerns and supported the $15 hourly equivalent for child care
workers. If child care workers aren’t receiving enough compensation, it will create a “downward spiral” as centers will be forced to close and
parents can’t work because they need to watch over their children, said Mariana Moore, a member of the child care advocacy group Raising California
“A supermajority of people in our community can’t afford quality, supportive child care,” county Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. “If (children) really are our future, are we really willing to invest?” Chavez asked.
The supervisor said $15 an hour isn’t too much to pay for child care workers. With income inequality reaching new heights, people are waking up
and taking more action in raising the minimum wage, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra said. Kalra, whose district includes Wright’s neighborhood, said in the last 20 years early educators’ wages have been stagnant.
“We want to make sure child care workers aren’t left behind and that in fact they don’t have to wait until 2022 to have $15 an hour for an important service they are providing,” Kalra said. “Other than parents and grandparents, child care providers are the first teachers that children have and I think it’s time that we start to recognize that,” Kalra said.
Wright has a bachelor’s degree in child development with a concentration on early intervention from National Hispanic University. She currently attends night classes for a teacher’s credential in special education through the Santa Clara County Office of Education and plans to
obtain a master’s degree.
“I just want people to know that we do hard work as child care providers. We’re not just babysitters,” Wright said.