Ashland AAUW Hosts Rep. Pam Marsh On Oregon’s Child Care Issues
ASHLAND, Ore. — At their branch meeting on Saturday at the United Methodist Church, the Ashland branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) hosted Rep. Pam Marsh and former Representative Peter Buckley. On the agenda was the lack of sufficient child care in southern Oregon and also child care-related policy ahead of the 2024 state legislative session. “Innovative Early Childhood Program Supports Southern Oregon Families” was the title of the initiative.
During the 2023 Legislative Session in Salem, Marsh focused on childcare issues, and last year, the Oregon State Legislature put $300,000 into a study to identify the barriers to the early childhood workforce within the state. A bill sponsored by Marsh- HB 2727, passed both the House and the Senate and was ultimately signed into law by Governor Tina Kotek. HB 2727 falls under the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) and sets up a workgroup to examine ways to expand early learning and care facilities in childcare in Oregon, which appears to be a childcare desert.
Executive Director of Southern Oregon Success (SOS), Peter Buckley works with the Southern Oregon Early Childhood Support Network, which is centered around a Family Success Plan process. People who are thinking about getting pregnant, or who are pregnant, or who have children under the age of 5 are supported through Individualized Family Success Plans, to ensure that every child that enters kindergarten in Josephine and Jackson Counties is ready to thrive.
Marsh indicated that only one-third of families throughout Oregon have adequate access to child care, and this is partially caused by low pay within the sector. People in the childcare sector have traditionally not been paid a living wage. Marsh said, “People have done it from the heart.” It is now far more difficult to get people to work only from the heart.
The next 2024 state legislative session is taking place on February 2.
Ashland (OR) Branch of the AAUW
Ashland’s branch of the AAUW- the largest in the state, has a mission to advance gender equality for women and girls. The key drivers are research, education, and advocacy. The size of the group facilitates spreading the word quickly about issues in the community, according to branch president Regina Ayars.
With over 150 members, Ashland’s AAUW members are well-connected in other organizations. Ayars hopes that their members will educate other community members to understand that the shortage of child care is still a large problem in Oregon.
In Spring 2023 Ashland’s AAUW’s innovative program connected 70 families with the services and resources offered by Douglas, family nurturing centers, parent mentoring, and birthing centers. Subsequently, many more are still being helped.
More information on Ashland’s branch of the AAUW, their newsletters, and initiatives can be found on their website. They are a group of socially conscientious, smart women committed to advancing equity for women and girls.