Childcare Availability Becoming A Growing Concern

(Beaver Dam) Childcare in rural Wisconsin will be affected, as the federal funding for Wisconsin’s Child Care Counts program ends next year. Ruth Schmidt with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association says, “family care” operating out of homes, has already been declining.

“And so when we used to have close to 8,000 family childcare programs operating and now we’re down I think close to 2,500 family childcare programs,” says Schmidt. “It’s not a lot. That’s going to be the impact. It’s going to hit availability of care in rural areas really hard.”

Renea Henning with Beaver Dam’s Community Care says finding enough money to pay early childcare teachers has been a challenge in recent years. She says Dodge County has become known as a “childcare” desert.

“Because people can’t make ends meet…to pay the bills…to keep the electricity on,” says Henning. “UW-Oshkosh, for an example, they just had a childcare center and they closed it…gave their families 30 days’ notice because they said, ‘we can’t sustain quality childcare and make this financially feasible.’”

Henning says when Child Care Counts ends, it will raise their rates 22-to-25-percent because she does not know where to get funds to pay staff and continue to offer the same services to families.

Governor Tony Evers wants lawmakers to provide additional money for childcare educators, and has called a special session of the Legislature for next month. State Representative Mark Born says there are “philosophical” differences between Evers and the legislature and does not anticipate any action being taken on the governor’s proposals.

He does say this is an important issue, noting that the legislature did invest over $90-million-dollars to childcare in the next biennium budget. The Beaver Dam Republican called it a three-pronged approach that tackles the problem in different ways.

“The first one is to help the folks that need it the most…we have a Wisconsin Shares Program that subsidizes childcare now for low-income families,” says Born. “The second one is support to the top quality staff and educators that work in our childcare industry. And there’s a program called the Rewards Program that funds additional money for teachers that have degrees and more experience. And then the third one…we set money aside in the budget and we’re running a bill this fall to provide grant funding for childcare centers and at-home [childcare] providers.”

Born says the grant dollars could be used for expanding services or to get into the business. He notes that since it is a newer program, it may take several months to develop.

Community Care’s Renea Henning joins Community Comment to discuss childcare:

Mark Born joins Community Comment to discuss childcare (conversation begins at the 6:53 mark:

WRN contributed