Time to get honest about the child care crisis • Wisconsin Examiner – Wisconsin Examiner

4 minutes, 36 seconds Read

You hear the refrain everywhere — when it comes to raising children, it takes a village. As an early childhood educator, I know this to be true. It takes a community of parents, child care providers, community members and our elected officials all working together to set the next generation up for success.

Unfortunately, unlike all other developed nations, the U.S. supplies bare minimum public funding for early care and education despite decades of research showing it improves life outcomes and yields enormous returns on investment through saved social spending down the line. 

The dominant political narrative frames the issue of accessible, affordable, high-quality child care as an individual responsibility rather than a public good worthy of investment like other infrastructure. We routinely hear politicians oppose child care investment with claims that if parents choose to have children, they must be solely responsible for meeting their child’s needs.

Is this truly the nation that we are? Are we OK with the implication that starting a family in this country is only a privilege for the affluent? Our national narrative on child care and policy choices to block funding for early education could not be more out of touch with the reality of the challenges families face.  U.S. families need to be able to access and afford high-quality child care so they can work and contribute to our economy. Children deserve to be well supported during their earliest and most fundamental years when 90% of their brains will develop.

Here in Wisconsin (one of the few states that continually refuses to put state dollars into child care), it is practically impossible to make a living educating young children while charging rates parents can afford to pay. While I love being a teacher, I find myself struggling to stay in the profession while earning just $12 per hour, lacking benefits, and feeling the exhaustion that comes with needing to keep a second job just to barely scratch out a living. Meanwhile, I know that many of the families whose children I care for, educate, and love are struggling to afford my care, and many more in my community are priced out altogether. My employer would love nothing more than to pay me a living wage. But if she raises her rates beyond what families can afford, they might be forced to leave her program.

I know that what I do is valuable, that I’m good at it, and that I work hard. I reject the ideology that says my low wage means I’m a  failure, and I refuse to be shamed into silence. Child care providers and families who are financially exploited by this system should not be ashamed to admit that we just don’t have the money to keep going. We shouldn’t be embarrassed that we make low wages or can’t afford care for our kids — our government leaders should be embarrassed for touting a thriving economy, all while building it off of a child care industry they’ve turned their backs on. Our government should be embarrassed that it has abandoned its children, its mothers and its families, especially when so many of our leaders preach “family values.”

I could stay silent and participate in a system that doesn’t work for anybody or I could speak up and take action. I could go on quietly taking part in America’s informal child care subsidy system, which relies on teachers like me earning a poverty wage for families to have access to care, or I could get loud and demand a just system of public investment for early childhood education. The only way we fix this crumbling system and win the public investment we deserve (and that our country desperately needs for longevity) is by standing shoulder to shoulder and speaking honestly about what we need and the hardships we’re facing to survive in this economy.

That’s why I’m a proud member of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Action Needed (WECAN) grassroots group, which organizes and empowers early educators and parents to make change by taking action. That’s why WECAN and I joined forces with the Childcare Changemakers (a project of Community Change) to participate in A Day Without Child Care on Monday, May 13, and partnered to promote actions of solidarity with parents, providers, and community members across the state, culminating in the statewide Rally for Child Care Investment that took place Saturday on the steps of the Capitol in Madison.

Our rally highlighted the voices of parents in need of affordable care as well as the providers and educators like me in need of livable wages in order to go on providing that care. It included the perspective of small business owners who need a dependable workforce and recognize that accessible, affordable child care enables that. Early childhood education  scholars and advocates were there, reminding us that this untenable situation is an intentional choice, and that other countries have instead chosen to create equitable, functional systems of care. Several of our state’s elected officials showed up to continue to call for early childhood investments, and the creation of public policy that would truly support their constituents. 

Together we got open and honest about the child care crisis, how it affects our lives, our children and our communities. In solidarity we called for the public investment required to create a thriving system of affordable, high quality child care that we all need and deserve.


This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this page

Similar Posts