May Eggs & Issues: Addressing our Childcare Challenges
The May edition of Eggs & Issues featured a discussion on the childcare issues parents and businesses are facing in the Chippewa Valley and the entire state of Wisconsin. The group of panelists included Andy Neborak, Executive Director of United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley; Renee Ernsting, Director of the Child Care Partnership at Western Dairyland; and Kimber Liedl, Business Engagement Director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association.
Discussing the current state of childcare in the region, Neborak explained how the issues come full circle. If families cannot afford program costs then the childcare centers need to lower prices, which means they cannot afford to pay teachers high wages in a highly competitive market. Survey results have shown that it is hard to retain teachers when the market is so tight. In Chippewa County, 125 teachers were hired in the last 12 months and in Eau Claire County it was about 267. Ernstein said to keep childcare affordable for parents, they have to pay lower wages to teachers and, “It’s a hard sell when you’re paying $12 an hour.” Liedl explained that the lack of teachers in childcare affects the workforce directly. Data has shown that 86% of working parents said problems with childcare hurt their efforts at work. The impact was greater for rural communities, which showed that about 80% of rural parents who were not working cited that the need to provide childcare influenced their decision not to work.
After discussing the core issues surrounding childcare, panelists discussed ways they were working to address the problem and provide solutions for families and businesses. Neborak explained that the Chippewa Valley Childcare Taskforce has applied for the Dream Up! Childcare support grant which will help “build supply in those areas that are really having a shortage,” and potentially use that model across Chippewa and Eau Claire counties. Ernsting said the Child Care Partnership is working with new childcare businesses on recruiting efforts, business start-up, entry level courses for new providers, and much more. On the parents side they are creating avenues for families to have access to in order to alleviate costs and provide resources on child development. Ernsting also explained their business-child care partnerships in which child care providers may reserve slots for a business so that they can pay a part (or all) of the cost of childcare for their employees. Finally, Liedl explained some solutions on the state level. There were several Federal Relief packages that provided funding for child care solutions and aid which is available for various programs to utilize. “It has been really interesting and exciting to see the work of these task forces and working groups all over the state looking at how they will address their needs now,” said Liedl.
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern