Winter 2006 Newsletter

Commitment to Education and Civil Rights Brings Hurtado to NSBN

John HurtadoNSBN was pleased to welcome John Hurtado aboard last fall as its new executive director.  With a wealth of experience in health care, education, and civil rights, Hurtado brings tremendous knowledge and a unique perspective to NSBN’s efforts.  His most recent experience was at MALDEF, where he helped parents and children navigate the educational system.  In his first few months at NSBN, Hurtado has commenced with several new projects and looks forward to many more.

You moved six months ago  from MALDEF’s staff to assume the position of executive director of NSBN-Los Angeles. What experience do you bring to your new responsibilities, and what drew you to this new education and community challenge?
For the past two years, I managed a nationwide parental rights and advocacy education program at MALDEF which primarily focused on civic engagement while simultaneously informing parents about their children’s and their own educational rights and concomitant responsibilities. For 20-plus years before MALDEF, I was in higher education at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts System, California School of Professional Psychology, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and Western University of Health Sciences/Loma Linda School of Medicine.

I was drawn to NSBN because of its strong focus on civic engagement in the design of new schools, libraries, medical facilities, recreational sites and parks, and other community resources.  These heavily urban, impacted inner-city and primarily minority communities are most in need of smart reinvestment, excellent schools, and family resources.

NSBN’s focus on community involvement in smart growth planning and design of public facilities allows neighborhood stakeholders to avoid making either/or choices between schools, housing, jobs, and other opportunities. I’m a believer in NSBN’s focus on the educational need to collaboratively plan joint-use pre-K facilities and schools, parks and community centers.

 NSBN currently has the support of First 5 LA (the Prop 10 cigarette tax-funded program that seeks to enhance the educational opportunities for children 0-5 years old) to assist the new LA Universal Preschool (LAUP) program develop new preschool seats, primarily for 4-year olds in the “areas of greatest need” – communities where the working poor live – they can’t afford private daycare yet they earn too much for traditional subsidized childcare (e.g., Head Start).  Specifically, NSBN is assisting LAUP develop 96 seats for 4-year olds in at least 4 sites including a school-based site within the targeted 34 communities (based on zip codes) where 4-year old population to licensed child care seats is less than a 58 percent service rate, which the overall goal for every zip code in LA County.

Why are you currently focusing on development of preschools?
While LAUP is using the traditional method of issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) for potential vendors to submit applications for funding support to develop new preschool seats, NSBN has been asked by First 5 LA to work with LAUP to develop new models in non-traditional communities where either no “traditional” preschool sites are available, there are no currently licensed providers, or existing providers don’t have the financial resources to pay for expansions beyond the subsidies from LAUP.

NSBN is working with its joint-use development partners in LA County – Paramount USD, L.A. County Office of Education, Century Housing and the International Institute of LA – to identify potential sites, provide the up-front funding for initial site plan designs (enough to satisfy potential funders need for general design requirements), and assist in identifying potential funders beyond LAUP as well as pre-screening candidates for LAUP and then referring them to the LAUP for state license preparation assistance. NSBN is helping develop short-term solutions to immediately increase child care seats in the selected communities (Paramount, North Long Beach, Willowbrook, Hawthorne and, hopefully, Palmdale/Lancaster).

Due to our immediate deadline of June 30 to have sites ready for fall 2006 enrollments, NSBN is focusing on either renovation of existing buildings or use of portable structures with existing licensees and partners.  However, we will generate realizable plans to assist the partners and community stakeholders to develop long-term, permanent structures that promote joint-use community education centers that can serve the full needs of neighborhood families and children. 
In Willowbrook, for example, we’re working with Century Housing and the Drew Child Development Corporation (DCDC) to immediately initiate phase I – temporary expansion of their 4-year old seats – on a new location on Imperial Hwy between Wilmington and Central Aves. These two partners, and, potentially, a third Drew Head Start will eventually occupy a two-story complex with as many as 200 preschool seats and the relocated offices of DCDC which are being displaced by the development of their current location as a new research facility at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science at King-Drew Medical Center, coincidentally one of my former employers which aided in the development of the relationship.

This project has been on the drawing boards for at least a dozen years with multiple partners but had never gotten to the point of fruition until NSBN offered its expertise and assistance in the planning process.  NSBN will work with the parents of the DCDC and Drew Head Start program children and other community stakeholders to design the final facility through its traditional, fully inclusive, charette methods.
What challenges have you encountered during your tenure at NSBN?
NSBN has encountered many disheartened providers seeking to expand but lacking the resources and expertise to develop the necessary plans to submit to funders like LAUP and First 5 LA. Similarly, we’ve realized that many parents bring their children with them to the areas in which they work or attend school despite the distance from home so as to be closer to them in case of emergencies. Thus, the current focus on certain communities based on zip codes doesn’t always reflect reality, since in some cases over half of the children in areas not designated as “areas of greatest need’ really come from other communities that do qualify.

Similarly, many of the communities that have the greatest need are old industrial communities with limited opportunities to develop child care without taking property off tax-rolls (many providers, especially in these areas, are non-profits) or would require significant environmental remediation or would take away from existing

housing or commercial stock. Other issues/challenges to be overcome involve the lack of awareness of the benefits of preschool despite First 5 LA’s impressive educational outreach campaigns. But this applies not just to the immigrant or poor communities.

We’ve also encountered many providers interested in expansion but who operate in leased facilities without room either inside and/or outdoors for playground areas to expand within state requirements. They sometimes also encounter staffing problems, such as insufficient staffing due to the limited number of licensable childcare workers. Other vendors, while located in designated communities have experienced population drops due to migration trends.

Note that the data used to develop the priority zones was generated three years ago and many communities, especially in areas with Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) have had significant population shifts due to complete closure of facilities for renovation/reconstruction or due to increased and affordable housing opportunities in the Inland Empire. In some areas, corridors of multiple licensed vendors are already competing for the same population but have waiting lists in adjoining communities where expansion isn’t possible due to the reasons mentioned above.
What goals do you hope NSBN will accomplish in the years ahead?
We continue to develop long-term projects that involve the planning of new schools, preschool to college, and other facilities. With the latest passage of LAUSD’s $4 billion school bond, and with plans by Assembly Speaker Nunez to include more bond funding for schools in the state’s 2006 infrastructure bond, NSBN continues to believe important opportunities remain to leverage these facility bond resources –for the benefit of underserved neighborhoods, families and children.
We expect and hope, therefore, to expand our collaborative planning work both in and beyond L.A. County (i.e., to San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura, and San Diego). We have even been asked to work in areas like New Orleans where communities must rebuild their infrastructure and where opportunities exist to build new community and family centered models with significant federal support. As in L.A. County, NSBN believes past inequities can be tackled through intelligent investment, planning and community engagement in design.