Child Care

For years, advocates (like me) have avoided mentioning the fact – at least, in the presence of legislators – that Utah families rely on school not just for education, but also for reliable and high quality child care. 

Similarly, until very recently, many Utah policymakers were ignorant of the fact that child care – especially for infants, toddlers and pre-school aged children – is possibly the most critical education Utah families will ever invest in. 

COVID-19 has made all this denial of reality much more difficult.

Right now, education administrators throughout the state are wondering how they could manage to implement a “staggered schedule” in their schools, when doing so would mean that teachers with school-aged children would require paid child care for half the workweek.

Parents working from home are realizing how much personal attention and educational interaction their children are able to receive in child care settings while they are working. Perhaps initially thrilled to save money on child care expenses, they are gaining renewed (perhaps desperate) appreciation for the intense, valuable work performed by their child care providers. 

Families throughout the state are struggling with a diminished roster of summer camps, summer programs and summers schools. They are wondering how they are going to manage the cost of additional hours of child care that may be necessary in the fall, depending on how individual school districts choose to “re-open” their schools.

Utah families and educators are all re-learning, under great pandemic-driven duress, something that has been the truth for decades: school is child care, and child care is school. 

In Utah, about 47% of all kids under age six, who are living with both parents, have both of those parents in the workforce.* Among kids between 6 and 17, who are living with both parents, that number jumps to 57%.* That increase represents a lot of Utah parents, going back to work, as soon as their young kids are able to attend kindergarten. 

More than 54,000 children under the age of six live with only one parent.* For 83% of those young children, the single parent they live with is in the workforce.* Among kids between 6 and 17, who are living with only one parent, that number jumps to 98%.* Again, that increase represents a lot of Utah parents, going back to work, as soon as their young kids are able to head off to public school. 

The vast majority of Utah parents  appreciate that for six or seven hours a day, five days a week, for around 36 weeks out of the year, they are able to put their children in the care of trained professionals, in a relatively safe environment, at little or no cost to their family. 

Their children are being educated in all manner of subjects, and they are learning to socialize with other children from different families and backgrounds. They also are under the watchful eye of educators acting “in loco parentis,” a common law principle that empowers educators to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent during school hours and activities. 

This all-encompassing educational and social experience is provided to Utah families largely for free – by law – because primary education is regarded generally as a public good. Ensuring that all people receive a basic level of education, regardless of their ability to pay for it otherwise, is good for all of us. Public education advances important goals like equal opportunity, work force preparation and an educated populace. 

Most Utah parents feel comfortable reading, writing, doing basic math, socializing with other people, finding (some) foreign countries on a map, and playing sports. But, as the pandemic lockdown has reminded so many, not all Utah parents feel qualified to be primarily responsible for teaching their children how to do all those things. No wonder fewer than 5% of school-aged children in Utah are homeschooled.** 

It just so happens that public education also provides hundreds of hours of free, high-quality child care to Utah families while accomplishing those important societal goals. School is many things, and yes, it is also child care. 

The more we learn about the incredible amount of brain development that occurs in early childhood, the stranger it seems that we, as a society, are still unwilling to acknowledge the reverse: child care is many things, and yes, it is also school.

Many Utah policymakers and elected officials still insist that “child care is a family issue” that should be left up to families to figure out. Families with young children are expected to either care for their children all day, or find someone else to do it for them. Under this model, all the inconvenience, confusion and cost associated with child care fall on individual families.

But our demographics show that this approach is painfully outdated. 

Nearly 54% of all Utah children under age six live in a household with all available parents working. The parents of those children are not in a position to fulfill all the responsibilities of teaching, socializing, reading and playing with their children. Those families need the support of child care professionals who, in addition to providing a safe and caring environment for children while their parents are working, are also teaching, socializing, reading and playing with those children. 

Unlike public school, however, there is an enormous cost associated with this invaluable service. Subsidies are only available to those Utah families making the least amount of money, while almost all Utah families (of any income level) struggle to afford the cost of child care for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children. 

Most families can’t homeschool their school-aged children, because they work outside the home (or inside the home for many due to COVID19). Most families also can’t pay for private school, because they don’t make enough money from their work outside the home. Luckily, public school is available for all those families. 

Most families can’t stay home to care for and teach their infant, toddler and pre-school aged children, because they work outside the home. Yet, we still expect them to pay for child care, even when they don’t make enough money from their work outside the home to afford the early care and education their children deserve. 

We need to stop tip-toeing around the fact that Utah families rely on school not just for education, but for safe and highly-effective child care. We need to embrace it. At the same time, we need to embrace the reverse truth: that safe, high-quality childcare is also the equivalent of “school” for young children. 

Safe, effective, high-quality care and education for Utah children of all ages is a public good. Treating child care and public education as part of the same important system of learning and development will create enormous benefit for these children, and, by extension, the rest of the state. 

* Figures from the 2018 American Community Survey, accessed at data.census.gov

** Calculated from data made available by the Utah State Board of Education on homeschooled children and public school enrollment in the 2015-16 school year (the most recent data reported on the USBE website at https://www.schools.utah.gov/data/reports?mid=1424&tid=4).

Special thanks to Erin Jemison, formerly of YWCA Utah and now with Community Resources for Justice's Crime & Justice Institute, for contributions to this post. 

Published in News & Blog

Utah leaders should be investing in child care professionals through paid training and educational opportunities, refundable tax credits for people who provide care and learning opportunities directly to young children, and other direct incentives that reward early care and education professionals for committing their time and energy to children’s healthy development.

Without bold policies that support and uplift the people who work most closely with young children, we can never build a child care system that offers the requisite diversity of choices for Utah families, while meeting the intense development needs of our next generation of Utah leaders.  

Last month, we shared our take on the general state of child care in Utah, addressing the unique opportunity – and desperate need – to strengthen this critical sector. That blog post, “It’s Time for the Child-Centered Child Care System that Utah Families Deserve,” asserted that “A child-centered early care and education system would be driven by committed and caring providers who are appropriately compensated, and thoughtfully trained, for their invaluable work.” This post focuses on that important system feature.

Currently, in our state, the people who perform one of the most important jobs in our society – ensuring the safety and healthy development of young children while their families are contributing to the economy as part of the workforce – are underpaid, overworked and taken for granted. By not engaging in proactive efforts to incentivize involvement in the early care and education sector, Utah leaders are passing on perhaps the best investment opportunity available to our state. 

In a seminal study that spanned decades, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis showed how low-income children who participated in a quality preschool program were likely to earn substantially more than their non-participating peers, in their mid-20s, and were far less likely to be arrested. This study, and many others since, have shown that the return on investment for early care and education programs is sizeable. Researchers estimate that our communities can realize an ROI of anywhere between $4 and $16 for each dollar invested in early education programs, a yield that is realized through increased economic activity, decreased reliance on governmental benefit programs, and reduced expenses via the criminal justice system. 

And yet, in Utah, the workforce that would make this type of incredible return on investment possible, is too often marginalized and ignored by policymakers. Except, that is, when making regulatory demands that are often completely out of step with even the most generous financial incentives available to child care professionals. 

Currently, most state childcare policy focuses narrowly on ensuring that early care and education providers meet strict health and safety guidelines. This is particularly true now, when child care settings are subject to additional public health requirements due to the coronavirus epidemic. The governmental support that is offered to providers, to assist them in meeting those guidelines, varies widely across the state. Some childcare providers report positive experiences with individual licensing agents, who assist them in rectifying minor safety issues in their childcare settings. Other providers share stories of unreasonable and sometimes culturally-inappropriate governmental demands, made by public servants who offer no subsequent assistance. 

In addition, providers increasingly are asked to meet educational demands that, while based on strong early childhood research, also happen to be unrealistic and unfair given the indisputable systemic realities of the child care marketplace. While it is true that increased educational attainment among early care and education professionals has been correlated with positive outcomes for the children in their care, it is also true that the vast majority of early care and learning professionals who work directly with children have neither the time, energy or financial resources to pursue a traditional college degree. 

Nonetheless, the highest rung on the Utah Office of Child Care offers financial incentives to child care professionals to help them “move up” this Career Ladder is reserved for individuals with a doctorate degree. While a limited number of people in Utah’s early care and learning sector have doctoral degrees, they are almost exclusively employed in administrative or college-level teaching positions. According to the state-sponsored Early Childhood Career Ladder, it would seem that the pinnacle of career achievement in the sector almost never involves actually working with young children. 

The Utah Office of Child Care offers financial incentives to child care professionals to help them “move up” this Career Ladder through ongoing professional development. Individuals receive a modest one-time stipend when they achieve a new level on the career ladder. Recognition for those achieving a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is $300. The largest incentive, $2,000, is reserved for professionals when they receive their doctoral degree (a feat achieved by fewer than 2% of all people in the United States). It is unclear how rewarding early care and learning professionals for moving out of child care settings will help to alleviate our current child care shortage. 

Many of the people who work in Utah’s child care sector already make incredible personal and financial sacrifices to care for and educate the young children in their communities. Very few people in the child care sector engage in this critical work because it is lucrative. Rather, most child care providers perform countless hours of uncompensated work because it results in better outcomes for the children and families they work with.  

During the last year school, one childcare center owner in Northern Utah regularly drove two of her special needs students to their half-day kindergarten classes, because the local school bus won’t cross district boundaries to pick them up. She also volunteered to text the kindergarten teacher each day with an update on the children’s emotional state before arriving at school. 

Another provider, who runs a home-based child care setting in Carbon County, calculates that, after her aides are paid and the necessary materials purchased, she makes about $4 an hour. Her long hours are extended by the fact that she makes special exceptions for early drop-off for some parents (such as the single mother who works the sunrise shift for a local mining company) while also participating in trainings at night. 

It is time to stop taking the hard work and tireless commitment of so many child care providers for granted. Rather than focus exclusively on health and safety regulations, unreasonable professional development requirements, and overly narrow definitions of “quality,” the state must begin to treat the professionals on which our child care system is built, as an exhaustible resource that demands careful tending. 

It’s not enough to offer training at reduced rates, or even for free, through Care About Child Care offices and the excellent T.E.A.C.H. program. Child care professionals need to be able to pay substitute teachers to care for young children while they are participating in professional development opportunities. It’s insufficient to provide a small financial incentive every time child care workers achieve a new “rung” on an Early Childhood Ladder that culminates somewhere beyond reality for most child care workers. The state should also create refundable tax credits for people working in the early care and education field, structured to reward most richly the people who work most closely with our young children, and regardless of the provider’s ability to meet the government’s culturally-exclusive definition of quality. 

If we are serious about the health, safety and successful development of the children of our state, we need to get serious about how we attract, acknowledge and advance the very people who are professionally responsible for those children, day in and day out. 

Published in News & Blog

For too many years, child are policy – in Utah and nationally – has been shaped primarily by economic and political forces. These forces have shaped our perceptions of early care and education: “People need childcare because they should be working. Government shouldn’t invest in childcare because that’s a family problem.” 

But economics and politics don’t belong at the center of a well-functioning, family-oriented early care and education system. 

Children do. 

A child-centered child care system would look very different from the one we have in Utah today. A child-centered early care and education system would be driven by committed and caring providers who are appropriately compensated, and thoughtfully trained, for their invaluable work. It would offer plenty of choice for Utah families seeking a child care setting that complements their values, preferences and cultural backgrounds. Most importantly, such a system would take seriously the intense developmental needs of young children – and enthusiastically work to fulfill those needs for every child, regardless of their family’s monthly income.

This period of great disruption, despite all its challenges and uncertainty, is the perfect moment to reimagine Utah’s child care system. It is well past time for our state to invest in a system that celebrates and acknowledges the critical public good that is early care and education.  

In an excellent brief entitled “Complex Considerations for the Recovery of Ohio’s Essential Child Care System,” our colleagues at Groundwork Ohio wrote: 

“While it is undisputed that quality child care is essential to reopening the economy so parents can return to work, high quality child care also provides the same critical education to our infants, toddlers and preschoolers year round that our K-12 system provides to our school-age children during the school year – especially when infant and toddler brains are growing more rapidly than any other period of their life.

Similarly, as has been learned during this time, the K-12 system effectively provides child care in addition to a high-quality education when children are at school. Our youngest children will soon be part of the workforce themselves on the other side of this pandemic and deserve access to the opportunities we know will support their healthy development and school readiness, so they too can thrive in our future economy.” 

You’ve probably heard that in Utah (as in many other states) a year of child care for an infant can cost a family as much as a year at a public university for a teenager. Well, there’s no reason that shouldn’t be true: early education is the better lifelong investment, both for families and for the government. If Utah families had to pay the true value of early care and education, almost none would be able to afford it. 

The COVID19 pandemic has emphasized how integral both child care and public education are to the healthy functioning of our communities. The pandemic has also laid bare the dire long-term consequences of Utah’s underinvestment in both of these areas.  

When the legislature makes its flurry of short-sighted budget cuts this summer, our state child care system will escape with less damage than our (pre)K-12 public education system. That’s only because the state has consistently spent on child care programs only the bare minimum necessary to draw down federal funding. There simply isn’t any meaningful state funding to cut from Utah’s child care programs.  

Rather than matching federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start funding with any state dollars, Utah has been content to settle for whatever we can manage with what Congress decides to give us. The result has been a child care system that has only one-third the necessary capacity to meet the needs of Utah’s working families

Again, that was the capacity of our pre-pandemic child care system. Currently, only about 86% of those pre-pandemic child care slots are available to Utah families - and without emergency funding through the CARES Act, that figure would be closer to 60%. 

During the pandemic, as before, Utah will probably be able to keep our struggling child care sector afloat by relying on federal funding - for the next few months, at least. But “staying afloat” won’t get us any closer to the child-centered child care system Utah families deserve: a stable, diverse system that always puts kids’ needs first. Only increased investment by the state government, with substantial support from the corporate sector, can ensure that infants, toddlers and pre-school aged Utah children get the early care and education they deserve. 

Published in News & Blog

Utah Poverty Advocates Call for Fairer Taxes and Restoration of Public Revenues

Salt Lake City - Today (September 26, 2019) at the Utah State Capitol, a group of two dozen non-profit organizations that provide services to and advocate on behalf of Utah's low- and moderate-income population released a letter to the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force. The letter calls on the Task Force to consider the impact on low-income Utahns as they consider tax changes that could, in the worst case scenario, make Utah's tax structure more regressive and less able to generate the revenues needed to make critically important investments in education, public health, infrastructure, poverty prevention, and other foundations of Utah's future prosperity and success. 

The text of the letter and the list of signatories appears below (and is accessible as pdfa pdf at this link): 

 Open Letter to the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force (TRETF)

Tax Reforms for Low- and Moderate-Income Utahns

September 2019

Dear Senators, Representatives, and Other Members of the TRETF:

We, the undersigned organizations that work with and advocate for low- and moderate-income Utahns, urge you to consider the impact on the most vulnerable Utahns of any tax policy changes that you propose this year.  

We urge you to address the two major challenges facing our tax structure as it impacts lower-income Utahns:

1)     Utah’s current system of taxation is regressive, in the sense that it requires lower-income Utahns to pay a higher share of their incomes to state and local government than it asks of the highest-income Utahns, even though about 100,000 lower-income Utah households are forced into – or deeper into – poverty by their tax burden every year. 

           ITEP Utah WhoPays graphic

This regressivity could be addressed with tax policy changes including the following: 

  1. A Utah Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to allow the working poor to keep more of what they earn.
  2. Remove the sales tax entirely from food, as 34 other states have done.
  3. Remove the state income tax on Social Security benefits for low- and moderate-income seniors; Utah is one of only 13 states that tax these benefits.
  4. Restore the income tax rate to 5% or increase it above that level. (Because the majority of all Utah income is earned by the top quintile of taxpayers, and because the Utah income tax more closely matches Utah’s income distribution than any other tax, most of such an income tax rate increase would be paid by the top-earning 20% of Utahns, while most lower-income Utahns are shielded from income tax rate increases.) 
  5. Disclose and evaluate the effectiveness of tax expenditures (revenue lost to the taxing system because of tax deductions, exemptions, credits, and exclusions); Utah’s lack of transparency in this area of taxation earned us a C grade from the Volcker Alliance, a leading evaluator of state budgetary practices founded by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. 

 

2)     For decades, Utah’s overall level of taxation relative to the state’s economy has been dropping, as illustrated in the chart below from the Utah State Tax Commission:

USTC Tax Burden chart

The unfortunate result is that we are left with a tax structure that fails to generate sufficient revenues to allow our state and local governmental entities to properly meet their responsibilities and fulfill their appropriate role in a number of critical areas, including the following:

  1. Education: Utah ranks last nationally for our per-pupil investment in K-12 education. Particular areas of weakness include:
    •  · Teacher turnover rates are higher than the national average. One study found the majority of new teachers leave within seven years.
    •  · Pre-K: Utah ranks 36th for our percent of lower-income 3- and 4-year-olds attending pre-school, private or public. We are also 1 of only 7 states not to have statewide public preschool programs. (The state offers only small-scale programs in a limited number of local school districts.) Yet we know from multiple research sources that every dollar invested in high-quality day care and preschools produces at least a $7 return on that investment in future years. 
    •  · Kindergarten: Only a third of Utah kids participate in full-day kindergarten, less than half the national average, because local school districts can’t afford to offer it. Voices for Utah Children estimates that it would cost at least $75 million to offer full-day K to all Utah kids (not including potential capital costs). 
    •  · According to the January 2019 report of the Utah Afterschool Network, the need for after-school programs exceeds the supply many times over, leaving tens of thousands of children completely unsupervised, meaning they are less likely to do their homework and more likely to engage in unsafe activities.

In addition to these input measures, Utah is also lagging behind in terms of several significant educational outcome measures:

    •  · Our high school graduation rates are lower than national averages for nearly every racial and ethnic category, including our two largest, Whites and Latinos.
    •  · Among Millennials (ages 25-34), our percent of college graduates (BA/BS or higher) lags behind national trends overall and among women.

Moreover, Utah is in the midst of a demographic transformation that is enriching our state immeasurably but also resulting in majority-minority gaps at a scale that is unprecedented in our history. For example, in our education system:

    •  · Our gap between White and Latino high school graduation rates is larger than the national gap. 
    •  · Education Week recently reported that Utah ranks in the worst 10 states for our growing educational achievement gap between haves and have-nots.
    •  · We are beginning to see concentrations of minority poverty that threaten to give rise to the type of segregation and socio-economic isolation that are common in other parts of the country but that Utah has largely avoided until now.

B. Infrastructure: Utah’s investment has fallen behind by billions of dollars. This is another area where the Volcker Alliance ranked Utah in the worst nine states for failing to track and disclose to the public the dollar value of deferred infrastructure replacement costs. In addition. Internet infrastructure is lacking in some rural counties, limiting their integration into Utah’s fast-growing economy.

C. Mental Health and Drug Treatment: Utah was recently ranked last in the nation for our inability to meet the mental health needs of our communities, according to a recent report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Underfunding of drug treatment and mental health services costs taxpayers more in the long run as prison recidivism rates rise because the needed services are not available. Estimates are that Utah meets only 15% of the need for these vital, life-saving services. 

 D. Affordable housing units fall 41,266 units short of meeting the need for the 64,797 households earning less than $24,600, yet the annual $2.2 million state allocation to the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund has not changed in over two decades, despite inflation of over 60%. Among extremely low-income renter households, 71% pay more than 50% of their income for housing, which is considered a severe housing burden. This year, the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund used up most of its annual $14 million budget at its very first meeting of the fiscal year (made up of both state and federal funds). 

E. Health care: Our rates of uninsured children are higher than national averages – and rising – especially among the one-in-six of our children who are Latino. In Utah 35,000 or 5% of White children are uninsured (national rank = 36th place), compared to 31,000 or 18% of Latino children (rank = 46th = last place in 2017). 

 F. Disability services: The 2018 annual report from the Utah Department of Human Services’ Division of Services for People with Disabilities reports that the wait list for disability services grew to a record level of 3,000 individuals last year and that the average time on the wait list is 5.7 years. 

 G. Seniors: The official poverty measure undercounts senior poverty because it does not consider the impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses. A 2018 study found that seniors spent $5,503 per person on out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2013, making up 41% of their Social Security income. (For most seniors, Social Security is the majority of their income, and it makes up 90% or more of income for 21% of married couples and about 45% of unmarried seniors.)  

 H. Domestic Violence: Although Utah's overall homicide rate is significantly lower than the national average, domestic-violence-related homicides constitute over 40% of Utah's adult homicides compared to 30% nationally. Several thousand women continue to be turned away annually from crisis shelters because of lack of capacity. Additional state funding would make it possible to substantially increase the capacity of overburdened crisis shelters. We are one of the few states without domestic violence services in every county.

Given the large number of urgent needs that are not being met because of our chronic shortage of public revenues, we are concerned that Utah is missing the opportunity to make critically important upfront investments now that would allow us to reap substantial rewards in the future, and that our most vulnerable neighbors will pay the greatest price as a result.

Thus, we urge you to consider the ways that the state tax structure impacts single parents, disabled adults, low-income children, seniors on fixed incomes, and other vulnerable population groups as you decide on your tax restructuring and equalization proposals.

 Finally, thank you for all the time and effort you are personally investing as volunteer members of this important Task Force, and for all that you do for our state through this and other forms of public service. 

Yours truly,   

American Academy of Pediatrics Utah Chap.

Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City

Coalition of Religious Communities

Community Action Program of Utah

Community Development Finance Alliance

Community Rebuild

Comunidades Unidas

Crossroads Urban Center

Epicenter

First Step House

League of Women Voters Utah

Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities

ICAST

Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah

Moab Area Hsg Task Force

Provo Housing Authority

RESULTS Utah

Rocky Mountain CRC

Self-Help Homes, Provo, UT

Utah Citizens’ Counsel

Utah Coalition of Manufactured Homeowners

Utah Community Action

Utah Food Bank

Utah Housing Coalition

Utahns Against Hunger

Voices for Utah Children

Published in Press Releases

Governor Herbert released his 2018 budget last week, and we at Voices for Utah Children are thrilled with the emphasis on investing in our kids through education. Clearly, our state leaders understand that education is critical to Utah’s future. We can’t expect to develop the workforce of tomorrow, without investing in education today, right?

Who, then, are the “workers of today,” who are responsible for developing our workforce of tomorrow? According to the Governor’s Office, parents, of course, and definitely our hardworking school teachers.

There is an additional group of professionals who play a critical role in Utah children’s lives and development, but who were largely overlooked in the Governor’s budget: child care providers.

And if Utah continues to overlook this under-staffed and under-appreciated sector, our future can’t be as bright as the Governor hopes.

The Governor’s budget emphasizes the importance of an “educated workforce,” and an educational system that produces the kind of workers sought by “high-value firms.”

The term “high-value firm” probably causes many Utahns to think of Silicon Slopes, or Main Street Salt Lake, where prominent firms like Adobe and Goldman Sachs have set up shop in recent years.

But when I hear “high value,” I can’t help but think of the tireless providers of quality childcare in our state. They aren’t afforded anything close to the prestige enjoyed by software designers or investment bankers.  They certainly aren’t compensated at a level that appropriately reflects the importance of their work, which includes laying the foundation of early education for thousands of Utah children.

They should be, though. On both counts. After all, they are providing a valuable service that our state workforce can’t function without.

According to the U.S. Census, more than half of all of Utah’s young children (under age 6) live in a home where all available parents work. This includes families with single parents, as well as families that need the contributions of two wage earners in order to make ends meet.

That’s more than 150,000 young children potentially in need of child care.

With around 41,000 available child care slots for kids of all ages statewide, the need is much greater than our child care sector can currently meet.

Private providers of child care – whether through childcare centers or via a family caregiver – do their best to provide high quality care that includes intentional instruction, spontaneous play, a safe environment and nurturing attention. In the words of Louise Stoney, co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, private providers tend to be “rooted in communities, connected to faith and neighborhood-based services, and trusted by families.”

This is valuable work. It deserves to be highly valued, as well. 

Providing a safe, educational and supportive child care environment takes time, energy and – of course – plenty of financial investment. In fact, it is so expensive to provide high quality childcare to the families that most need it, that private providers can’t charge enough to cover their costs. To do so would price many low- and middle-income working families out of child care altogether.

Accordingly, many providers operate on a financial razor’s edge, with very little left over when the bills are paid. There are licensing and credential requirements, the cost of food and materials, the cleaning and upkeep of buildings. Many struggle to end each year in the black. That makes it very, very difficult to pay child care practitioners – the people who watch over and interact with Utah children while their parents contribute to our powerhouse economy – anything close to what they deserve to make.

Despite the incredibly important work they do, keeping our children safe and contributing to the “early architecture” of their developing brains, childcare professionals make an average of $22,310 a year. That’s less than $11 an hour.

Understandably, retention is a constant struggle in the child care field. Even as employers invest in higher quality child care offerings – providing educational opportunities and certifications for their workers, for example - they watch their increasingly-qualified employees leave for more lucrative jobs elsewhere.

Child care practitioners would like to make more; their employers would like to pay them more. The necessary shoe-string budgeting, unfortunately, simply does not work in favor of these important “early teachers” of our children.

While Governor Herbert did not explicitly mention high quality childcare in his budget, he did emphasize the importance of funding “high-quality preschool services for disadvantaged students and those at risk of academic failure. We would encourage the Governor and his staff to begin to think of childcare, including that provided by private business, as part of that critical early education equation.

We are hopeful that, with support from the Governor’s Office, our highly competent Department of Workforce Services can develop innovative ways to support what is at the same time a very important sector of our economy, and a critical contributor to early education.

Early childcare providers make workforce participation possible for so many Utahns. They play an important role in getting low-income and struggling families back to work. We need to start caring about them, as much as we want them to be caring about our kids.  

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