She said it cuts across all income groups and impacts the business community if they cannot retain or attract employees because of their difficulty finding affordable, quality child care.
Child care challenges
Credit: Alexis Larsen
Credit: Alexis Larsen
Jones and Lightcap called for increased government funding for child care and preschool, echoing comments from a variety of business leaders, educators, child care providers and advocates interviewed by the Dayton Daily News as part of an investigation published this week looking at child care challenges in the region.
“The evidence is really strong and growing that yes, it’s going to require public investment,” said Jones, who is a Republican former Ohio senator and representative. “But also it is public investment that provides a huge return on that investment.”
Shannon Jones, Warren County Commissioner and former state lawmaker.
Some opponents of increased government funding argue that there is existing public funding that should be given to parents to use in the child care option of their choice, including more in-home or church-based facilities.
“I don’t think it makes sense to make a huge investment that would actually push people in a direction that is not their ideal, which is towards government-directed center-based child care, when the reality is that’s not what most people want,” said Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington D.C. “They don’t want that because they’ve determined that is not what’s best for their family,”
Child care costs rose 214 percent, while family income increased 143 percent, since 1990, according to an analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index done by the First Five Years Fund, a Washington D.C.-based bipartisan advocacy group.
A single parent family pays 43.8 percent of its annual income for center-based infant child care for one child, according to ChildCare Aware, an advocacy organization that partners with 400 child care resource and referral agencies and other groups.
“Unlike other industries, there is no market-based solution to America’s child care crisis. Providers can’t charge families more because prices are already higher than most families can afford,” the First Five Years report said. “And because child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers is a specialized, labor-intensive service to provide, there is no outsourcing or automating this work.”
Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Preschool Promise
Child care centers and preschools are struggling with major staffing shortages, Lightcap said, and low pay is a major issue that is hard to resolve because it is directly connected to how much the centers charge parents.
“Programs are increasing their rates just because they have to recruit teachers. But they can’t increase that much,” Jones said.
Preschool teachers, who must have an Associate’s degree, earn median pay of $15.35 per hour, or $31,930 a year. Child care workers have median pay of $12.24 per hour, or $25,460 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“There’s a general lack of awareness or understanding about how much their child’s teacher is making,” Lightcap said. “If they did know they would be appalled. They just know it is a struggle for them to pay what they are paying for child care.”
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See all our stories on the impact of child care challenges on local families, children and businesses: