Publicly fund child care
To the Editor:
The childcare system in Minnesota needs and deserves public funding and the new MN legislature has the opportunity to make this a reality. Every family deserves access to affordable childcare and childcare teachers deserve to earn wages on par with K-12 educators. Children’s brains grow to 80 percent of their adult size in the first five years of life. We need to transform how we do childcare so that we can make sure those brains are getting everything they need to grow into contributing members of our communities. We’re counting on the new Minnesota legislature to lead the way.
I am the owner of Building Blocks Learning Center and Child Care. We have calls daily looking for care, and they are turned away without even an idea of when our next opening will be. Many of these calls are from families looking to relocate to the area. The childcare crisis in our community is not showing any signs of relief, but instead is becoming more dire of a situation which not only affects young families with young children but affects our economy and the future success of our community.
Childcares are already closing at a rapid rate. We have a staffing shortage so severe that childcare center classrooms sit empty because we cannot find qualified staff to work for the low wages we can afford to pay. We cannot afford to pay higher wages because our families cannot afford to pay more in tuition than they do already. It’s a vicious catch-22 that is unique to the childcare industry. Tuition paid by parents is the only source of income for childcares.
Parents and families rightfully wonder “Why is childcare so expensive?” The reality is that it’s expensive because it costs a lot to provide good, high-quality care. The childcare industry has subsidized families for decades. The current cost model of how we do childcare places parents and families on one side and teachers on the other. It’s like a seesaw that we’re continually trying to balance. But the only way to balance it is for one side to put in way more than they are able. In this system, to pay teachers a living wage, families would have to pay much more than they can afford for care. To balance it so families can afford care (barely), teachers have to work for much lower wages, or “subsidize” rates for parents. The simple fact is that we cannot sustain childcare the way it exists now, and both pay teachers the wages they deserve and keep care affordable for families. It is not possible.
Public funding would bridge the gap between what families can afford and the costs to run a quality program that can pay teachers what they deserve. We, the childcare industry, have been trying to balance this teeter totter on our own for way too long. Children from infancy to 5 deserve better, families deserve better, and those of us that work in childcare deserve better.
We all deserve a system in which childcare is affordable and accessible. Every one of us will benefit when we start treating childcare as the public good that it is.
Shea S. Ripley