Child care measure winning but fate may be decided in court

Child+care+measure+winning+but+fate+may+be+decided+in+court

PHOTO BY LARM RMAH/UNSPLASH

By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News Service
An Alameda County ballot measure that would raise an estimated $150 million annually to expand access to early education and child care for all children in the county was ahead in the incomplete returns Tuesday but its ultimate fate may be decided in court.
With 31 percent of countywide precincts reporting, Measure C is ahead by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters is saying for now that the measure only needs a simple majority to win approval.
But one of the measure’s supporters, Clarissa Doutherd of Parent Voices Action, said Tuesday night that the question of whether the measure needs a simple majority or a two-thirds vote to win approval is “ambiguous” and may have to be decided in court.
The measure calls for 20 percent of the revenue that’s raised to go toward expanding free and low-cost health care and emergency services at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and 80 percent toward funding child care and preschool programs.
Measure A supporters said it was designed by early childhood educators, pediatric health experts and working parents to address the problem of the cost of quality early education and health care being too high for many people.
In their ballot statement, Measure A supporters wrote, “Alameda County kids are falling behind at an alarming pace.”
They said early access to education and child care is important because a child’s brain develops most dramatically during the first five years of life but more than half of children in the county don’t get the high-quality care they need to arrive at kindergarten ready to learn because of the rising cost of living.
In addition to expanding access to early education and child care, Measure C would attract and retrain quality early educators to provide better care for kids, increase access to early pediatric health care for all children and ensure that Children’s Hospital’s Level 1 pediatric trauma center stays open and is fully staffed.
If the measure is approved, First 5 Alameda County, which serves children from birth to age 5, would be the administrator of the child care program.
There was no organized opposition to Measure C.
A coalition of community members gathered more than 85,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
That distinguishes it from a similar measure in 2018, Measure A, which was put on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors but fell just short of the two-thirds margin needed for approval, getting 66.19 percent of the vote.
Supporters of Measure C and some other measures throughout the state believe that measures put on the ballot through signature-gathering only require approval by a simple majority.
The legal issue is currently pending in the state Court of Appeal and centers around interpretation of ambiguous language in a 2017 state Supreme Court ruling.