I have worked as a Lead Head Start Teacher with MAOF for 17 years. I love my job. When I decided to go back to school in my early 30’s it was to serve my community. It was to help my family have a better life. I am proud to work in the same community I reside in, but I feel MAOF has lost its connection with our evolving community. I believe management needs to listen to those of us who work on the frontlines in order to reconnect and better serve the children and families in our centers.

As educators, we are aware that we serve communities in need and that the needs of our communities are changing. We are seeing more children with autism, speech impediments, and emotional and behavioral issues. There are more young parents, more parents dealing with drug addiction, and immigrant parents who live with constant worry. There is so much need that we are willing to address, but MAOF does not provide us with the training and resources that are necessary for us to serve some of the most vulnerable in our area.

Now, more than ever, our children need stability. MAOF needs to do more to recruit and retain experienced and dedicated staff. Sometimes we are under great stress caring for our own families. I, for example, do not have health coverage for my husband nor our children and I know first-hand of many of my coworkers who cannot afford health insurance for their spouse or children. We simply cannot afford it. We don’t earn enough to pay for the coverage, but we also don’t qualify for social services. We need MAOF to take this into consideration. When early educators have good jobs with benefits and living wages, we have a stable group of teachers and other educators that can create lasting relationships with the community. We can improve the quality of services we offer for the children and families we serve, to truly achieve MAOF’s vision and mission.

I think MAOF management needs to be more in touch with our communities and with those of us on the front lines of education. MAOF management doesn’t know what its like to be in the classroom. They work with numbers, but we work with the children. I invite MAOF management to visit our classrooms so they know first-hand the importance of the work we do. It’s not just about business, its not just about numbers, it’s about the lives we impact and the children we care for everyday.

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Three hundred educators — child care center teachers, nutritional aides, and assistants — who provide our communities across Los Angeles with essential early care at the Mexican-American Opportunity Fund are currently in contract negotiations. Our contract expired October 2 and since then MAOF has dragged their feet. They canceled two scheduled bargaining sessions in October and when we finally did meet on November 7 they brought no serious counter proposals.  That’s why I decided to step up and share my personal testimony with MAOF.