Senator Erpenbach Hosts Screening at the Capitol with Local Early Child Care Educators
October 24, 2019
Brooke Skidmore, Director and Owner of The Growing Tree Child Care Center, and Corrine Hendrickson, Owner and Teacher at Corrine's Little Explorers Family Child Care Center, presented a shorter version of No Small Matter at the Capitol hosted by Senator Jon Erpenbach on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, to discuss the importance of, and critical need to invest in, child care programs. Approximately thirty attendees came, including legislators and staff members from both parties and the joint fiscal bureau to gain a better understanding of the childcare crisis currently happening in our state and what can be done legislatively to support children's growth and development and the needs of our states' workforce.
After the screening, Corrine and Brooke presented reasons and facilitated a conversation about why we should invest in early care and education: Simply put, we are all stakeholders in the children within our communities, regardless if we have children ourselves. If children fail to thrive and do not become contributors to our economy, then we will pay exponential amounts in the future. These costs can be seen early on with increased spending for special education, juvenile services, and compounds as adults with our high incarceration rates costs, lower taxable income rates, and public assistance services.
Currently, 80% of employers in Wisconsin report having difficulties finding qualified employees for many positions. Part of the difficulty is that young children are currently required to sit and told what to do and how to do it instead of being allowed to problem-solve, be curious, be creative, and to love learning in a supportive environment led by the child's interests and abilities. Children are innately curious, social, and want to learn. This is how the brain builds the strong connections it needs for the executive functions to develop. The research is unequivocal that the first five years of life are the most impactful in determining the life outcome. However, in our country and state, we do not support the education (which includes their social experiences and relationships) of children in the early years. Our society takes a hands-off approach of "not my child, not my problem." This approach is a significant disservice not only to our children but also our communities from an economic standpoint. In Wisconsin, we lose $3 billion dollars a year (Governor's Early Childhood Advisory Council 2015) because of the lack of high quality childcare accessible and available to families.
Many children, especially those born into poverty, experience multiple risk factors that make it unrealistic for them to become a contributing adult member of society, given the setbacks the child experiences at no fault of their own. Quality early childhood education and care has been proven to buffer a child against those risk-factors. Additionally, we are one of the only industrialized countries to not support the early years of development, which is evident in our low-quality rankings for early child education and care (we are second to the bottom, only above Turkey in 2017). Instead of putting our money into preventative measures, we spend our money two-fold as a result of a failed system.
Ms. Hendrickson and Ms. Skidmore emphasized that the most significant hinderance to quality in early childcare is the wage rates of teachers. In Wisconsin, the average wage of a childcare worker is $10.03, with 52% of the workforce having an Associate Degree or higher. Family Child Care Center Providers make $7.50 and hour with 33% having an Associate's or higher. The wage of $10.03 is not a livable wage and is classified as a poverty rate. Subsequently, the yearly turn-over rate of early childhood educators in Wisconsin is 36%. Currently, the only means to increase the wages of educators is to increase the rates of childcare. Many families already pay more for their child than their mortgage or rent a month.
Simply put, families cannot afford increased rates for childcare. Without the support of our government in early childhood education and care, we are left "chasing our tails." It is important that we reconsider what our country means when we say, "a free and appropriate education for all children," as our rights in the United States. Supporting early childhood education and care is not only a moral issue but it is an economical issue that needs to be addressed for the sake of our country's future.