Threats, Opportunities, and Catalysts of Change 

By: Lorella Praeli

We live in contradictory times, filled with both threat and opportunity. The child care industry demonstrates this starkly. New Mexico is implementing the first constitutional guarantee to child care in this country’s history after a decade of grassroots organizing and winning 70% support for the amendment last November. Minnesota just passed a dizzying list of progressive policies, including the most generous state child tax credit in the country and historic investments in child care. At the same time, nationally, the child care industry is in peril. 

“The industry is going to die,” Doris Irizarry told the New York Times. “We cannot survive without the parents, and the parents cannot survive without us.” Doris is part of Community Change’s Childcare Changemakers project and a member of our partner organization ECE on the Move. She was forced to close her child care center in New York City when rising expenses became unsustainable. 

Her situation is far too common, and conditions for child care providers are poised to get worse. COVID-related relief funds for child care run out at the end of the month, and rising costs have forced many providers to close or to go to unsustainable lengths to keep going. As three Childcare Changemakers explained to the Washington Post, providers are going months without salaries and dipping into their savings to keep their operations open. 

House Republicans stand in the way of budget negotiations, holding the country hostage — once again — with the threat of a government shutdown. “We’re looking at the potential to lose 30,000 child care programs — that’s up to 3 million families that are going to have to struggle and figure out if they’re going to choose to leave the workforce because they can’t afford child care,” Community Change Economic Justice Director Jennifer Wells told USA Today.

As a new mom, I’m acutely aware of the critical importance of child care. If Congress doesn’t act now, there will be more instability in every facet of our lives. As always, women — especially women of color — and our kids will be hit the hardest. Our families, youngest kids, and the childcare workforce need a lifeboat.

In the midst of this and other hard realities, the movement for child care justice offers one sign of hope. The relief measures set to expire would not have been won without the voices of parents and providers — and their power is a core part of our strategy to win future relief. When the COVID pandemic forced providers to shut down and parents, especially mothers, to leave the workforce, we stepped up our organizing. With national allies, grassroots partners, and Childcare Changemakers across the country, we won $50 billion for child care through COVID relief measures, including $24 billion for child care stabilization grants to states through the 2021 American Rescue Plan.

One leader in this fight is Gladys Jones, the founder and CEO of ECE on the Move, where Doris is a member. She ensured that child care providers in New York City were included in efforts to address systemic problems and helped increase public investment in the state. Community Change is recognizing Gladys as the 2023 Pablo Eisenberg Emerging Change Champion.

New Mexico offers a whole new paradigm for what we can win: a constitutional guarantee for a child care system that provides good pay, training, and stability for providers and quality care for children that their parents can afford. We have this model because of our partner OLE (Organizers in the Land of Enchantment), and Liz Simons, board chair of the Heising-Simons Foundation. OLE and their members fought for more than a decade with partners like Community Change and donors like Liz Simons to make quality child care a right for all kids in New Mexico. Community Change is also honoring them as our 2023 Champion in Community Organizing. 

Together, these Community Change Champions represent the national movement of parents, educators, and child care providers — led by our Childcare Changemakers and allied partners — who have made early childhood care and education a national issue.

On Thursday, September 28, two days before the federal government shuts down, Community Change is holding our 2023 Community Change Champions Awards. We believe that in times like these, we have to celebrate the people and victories that give us hope. They help us see beyond the world as it is and imagine the world as we seek to remake it.

Join us on Thursday, September 28, as we celebrate women on the front lines of the movement for child care justice and other catalysts of change. 

Alongside Gladys Jones, Liz Simons, and the leaders of OLE, we are lifting up the movement catalysts who create and capitalize on moments that change the trajectory of what is possible:  

  • For combatting the structures of racism and white supremacy that permeate philanthropy, directly investing in leaders of color and their institutions, and co-creating and continuing the movement legacy of Susan Sandler as the founding Executive Director of the Susan Sandler Fund, Vivian Chang is our 2023 Champion in Philanthropic Leadership in Racial and Gender Justice.
  • For driving the decade-long work to nourish a community-led movement that is rooted in a bold, values-driven agenda, disrupting Chicago’s political machine to win governing power, and for boldly leading the city and the country toward transformative change, Chicago’s Grassroots Political Powerhouse is our 2023 Disruptor Change Champion, accepted by Grassroots Collaborative, United Working Families, and Mayor Brandon Johnson.

In this long fight, let’s celebrate the catalysts that create the change we need in this world, and who give us hope for the work ahead.  

Honoring The March on Washington with Stories from the Ground Up

This year on August 26, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As we reflect on the electric atmosphere of change and the monumental changemakers in attendance, we have mixed feelings about the ongoing need for a continued fight for both economic equality and liberation over 60 years later. In response, our communications fellows created a series of pieces on ChangeWire reflecting on the powerful speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders: 

Community Change staffers Gloria Chan and Alondra Trevizo also created a moving video that shares how  History Repeats: How 60 Years Shows We Can’t Stand Still!

Our Implementation Work

In the past two years, trillions of dollars in federal funds has started to flow to communities across the country from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the  Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the CHIPS and Science Act. These funds are meant to rebuild our economy and infrastructure and to address the causes and effects of climate change by shifting the country away from fossil fuel dependency. This money also offers an opportunity to build long-term political power for Black, brown, immigrant, and low-income communities; strengthen our movement; and protect democracy by demonstrating the government’s ability to improve people’s lives. Community Change is helping to ensure this enormous — and enormously complicated — opportunity is not squandered. 

We’ve helped partners channel ARPA funds to support key investments in their communities, like increases in child care provider compensation and parent access to child care assistance in New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, Illinois, and Washington, DC; expansion of earned income tax credits and other income support programs to immigrants and excluded workers in Colorado, Washington, New York, and Iowa; and new public investments in housing trust funds in Georgia, Missouri, Virginia, and New Hampshire. 

We’re also working with other national organizing groups to coordinate support to grassroots partners to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color play an active role in deciding where and how IRA funds are used — and to ensure those funds are dedicated to improving their communities.

And because the stories we hear from directly impacted people play a big role in the success or failure of policies, we’re also taking steps to amplify the voices of people who are most affected by the problems these bills are designed to address. For example, we are drawing on our Gen Z-led digital influencers network to spread the word about how implementation investments can support working families and improve our communities, to help the public understand what’s at stake. Check out  this TikTok video explaining the goals of the IRA, and this Spanish language video and this bilingual video about how the IRA can help families struggling with expenses. 

To see more of our influencer messages on IRA, the debt ceiling, the child tax credit, and other burning issues, go to our TikTok profile.

The Other Minnesota Story

On September 14, Sen. Tina Smith and Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar joined Doran Schrantz, Executive Director of ISAIAH, and a brilliant panel of organizers and political insiders from Minnesota. Our Co-President Dorian Warren moderated a panel that shared the untold story of the past decade of work behind the scenes that set up Minnesota Democrats to deliver a master class on passing progressive policies after they won unified control of government. We heard from Chair of the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Liz Olson, about the Minnesota Values Project, which she co-founded to craft a unified policy agenda. Bernie Burnham, President of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, spoke about the work of building solidarity within the labor movement to fight for the rights of all workers, and Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, Executive Director of UnidosMN, shared how her organization built political power without sacrificing the priorities of immigrant communities. Leah Montgomery, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Legislative Affairs for the Governor’s Office, helped us understand the power of building relationships across sectors to work toward a common goal. Doran closed with a challenge to philanthropy — to fund not only the easily quantified tactics of elections, but also the messy, nuanced relational work of governing from the ground up. Catch the highlights of this powerful event here.

At times like these, when insurrectionists and would-be authoritarians are threatening the future of our democracy, the work in Minnesota shows that democracy CAN deliver for our families — and the people of Minnesota have shown us that progressives can win big, from paid family and medical leave to historic investments in child care (including support for child care providers and workers) to an expanded child tax credit that includes undocumented families and too many more to list.

LAST CHANCE to Register for Champions!

It’s almost time for the celebration. Join us for the 2023 Change Champions Awards: Catalysts of Change, a night to honor leaders and organizers that work diligently to transform their communities across the nations.  Attend in-person or virtually!

Community Change is Looking for a Design Firm!

Have design experience with non-profits, political campaigns, or good trouble organizations? Then apply for our open design proposal by October 6th!

Community Change is seeking proposals to fulfill a suite of graphic design needs in 2024. This includes engaging a range of audiences through digital and print media, supporting our internal brand team with timely project management, and being a strategic thought partner for our 2024 brand expansion goals. 

2024 Communications Fellows – Apply today!

We’re now accepting applications for 2024 communications fellows including emerging reporters, writers, photographers, videographers and artists. We are especially looking for creators who can speak from their own lived experiences of poverty, inequality, racism, sexism, and other economic and social justice issues. This fellowship is for folks who are interested in telling the full stories about the issues that impact them and their communities and who want to amplify voices and solutions from the ground up. Preference will be given to those who apply before Oct. 1. This is a paid, 12-month program. More info and how to apply here.

Thank you for reading about what’s happening this month at Community Change. See you next month!