Child care is in crisis. The child care supply is dwindling while those in business struggle to survive. Child Care Council of Orange County Inc. recently held a focus group of child care providers and a forum where providers shared their concerns with legislators in attendance; these were local efforts as part of the Empire State Campaign for Child Care.
What is the crisis?
Minimum wage increases will force some child care programs to close.
In 1998, one program’s payroll was 49 percent of the total budgeted income; in 2017, it was at 73 percent. With the minimum wage set to increase again soon, programs are in turmoil. They cannot raise parent fees any higher. Parents are paying more for child care than their mortgages.
Child care programs offering universal Pre-K face expensive turnover.
* Child care teachers with bachelor’s degrees earn about $10.75 per hour to start; assistants about $9.75 per hour. These quality staff cannot afford to live here.
* When programs hire qualified teachers with provisional certifications, these teachers must leave for one year and teach in a public school to earn a permanent teaching certificate.
* When programs hire teachers with a permanent teaching certificate, these teachers flee to teach in school districts. Who wouldn’t want a teacher’s salary – many start at $50,000.
* Turnover is detrimental to children’s success in the early years.
There is a shortage of child care programs. From 2010 as compared to 2017, there has been a sharp decrease of 32 percent of in-home registered/licensed child care programs. Programs have difficulty paying staff, health care and liability costs, feel over-regulated, work long hours to meet the nontraditional needs of parents, face losing money taking subsidized families and deal with undercutting illegal providers.
There needs to be continuity of standards for early childhood programs. Child care programs work with different entities each requiring different standards:
State regulations - required for licensing; National accreditation standards – required to take military families; Office of Early Learning standards – required for universal Pre-K programs; NY Board of Education standards – required for teachers in a program; Quality Star standards – required for the NYS Quality Rating System.
What are some solutions? Urge Governor Cuomo to:
* Sign the Workforce Task Force Act. This taskforce will “examine issues including access to subsidized child care, the cost of child care, availability of non-traditional hours, impact of child care access on the workforce, the impact on economic development and child care quality.”
* Develop a fund and mechanism to help child care programs cover increased wage costs as the new minimum wage standard is implemented across the state.
* Reinstate the 75th percentile formula for child care subsidies (which would be at 250 percent of poverty). Orange County currently pays at 150 percent [a single mom with one child must earn $24,360 ($11.71/hr.)]
I urge you to stay informed.
-Linda Martini is executive director of Child Care Council of Orange County Inc.