Early Education

Years of inadequate public investment have left Utah families struggling with many unmet needs. Our schools require better funding to hire more teachers, counselors, and nurses. We need affordable child care for both our cities and rural areas, along with affordable housing, cleaner air, and much more.

So why are our state leaders so determined to eliminate the primary source of funding for our public education system and other community services that help kids and their families?

Between 2018 to 2024, the state legislature cut the state income tax four times, from 5% to 4.65%. Our leaders act like they are doing us all a favor, reducing our income taxes by a few dozen dollars each year - but these seemingly small cuts have resulted in an annual revenue loss of over $800M. 

Now, Utah’s legislative leaders are clear about their intentions to eliminate the income tax entirely.

“Ultimately what they (legislative leaders) want to do and what I want to do is get rid of the income tax completely.” - Governor Spencer Cox, December 2023
“I’ve said forever, if there is a way, we’d like to try to actually remove the income tax.” - Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, March 2024
 “I want to focus on continuing to reduce income tax. Let’s also continue to have the discussion on getting rid of the income tax all together.” - Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, January 2024

 

However extreme and unrealistic these plans might seem, don’t doubt that they will try to do it. This year’s Interim Study Items include studying alternatives to the income tax. 

The Consequences

Eliminating the income tax in Utah would further reduce funding for essential services, leading to devastating cuts affecting education, healthcare, and social services. This could mean decreased compensation for educators, fewer family resources, and longer wait times for assistance. The majority of Utahns do not want lower taxes if it means lower-quality services. Income tax cuts don’t make states more prosperous or competitive, and they don’t help families make ends meet.

Proponents of eliminating the income tax have yet to propose any viable plan to replace the enormous revenue loss that will follow. Only one state, Alaska, has ever eliminated its income tax, and it did so only after striking oil.

An Unfair Tax System

A fair tax system relies on a balanced approach, combining property tax, sales tax, and income tax to ensure stability, fairness, and responsiveness. The income tax is meant to represent the leg of fairness, ensuring that wealthy households pay their fair share

Eliminating the income tax does not ensure that large corporations and the wealthiest residents pay their fair share in taxes. In fact, the benefits of income tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Eliminating the income tax would provide a benefit of $121,514 to the top 1% of Utahns, but only provide $121 to the lowest-income 20%. 

In recent years, wealthy corporations have enjoyed record profits, but aren’t paying their fair share in taxes. Further tax cuts mean they will pay even less. If the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share, we could expand opportunities to everyone, by investing in quality education, cleaner air, child care, and healthcare.

Utah's Values

Utahns believe in taking care of each other no matter what. But the recent years of revenue elimination have prioritized the wealthy and corporations instead. Now, over 60% of Utahns feel the state is on the wrong track, and that quality of life is worse than it was five years ago. Continuing to starve the state budget for critical public services, such as public education and highway safety, will not reverse that sentiment. 

State leaders should focus on strengthening the vital services that make sure working people, small businesses, and families have the tools to build a good life. It's time to prioritize the well-being of all Utahns over short-sighted tax cuts for the wealthy.

Published in News & Blog

Refundability 101 3

In Utah, raising a family with children is expensive. Whether or not a family can afford child care depends on income remaining after paying basic household expenses.

To help policymakers understand these challenges, we're introducing the Utah Child Care Affordability Calculator. Developed by the Committee for Economic Development in collaboration with Voices for Utah Children, Promise Partnership Utah, and Utah Community Builders, this tool helps illustrate a clearer picture of the finances of everyday Utah families.

The Utah Child Care Affordability Calculator isn't for families choosing child care. Instead, it's a policy tool. It helps policymakers understand how families' finances intersect with child care costs. By selecting a county, users can see if families, based on median income, can afford licensed child care after covering basic expenses.

This tool highlights the hurdles families face in affording child care and accessing the Child Care Assistance Program. It's a call to action for policymakers to address child care affordability.

 

Access the Child Care Affordability Calculator Here 

 

Published in News & Blog

The 2024 Utah Legislative Session ended at midnight on Friday, March 1. For the Voices for Utah Children team, this session included supporting a lot of community engagement, working hard to protect the programs that protect Utah kids, and trying not to get distracted by outlandish efforts to "solve" problems that don't actually exist in Utah.

As usual, there were many, many missed opportunities for state leaders to improve the lives of Utah kids. Nonetheless, we managed to pull off some great victories - as always, in partnership with many supportive community members, our great partner organizations and supportive public servants.

We hosted six different public engagement events at the Capitol over seven weeks. Working closely with our community partners, we stopped some truly terrible legislation that literally threatened the lives of Utah kids who rely on Medicaid and CHIP. Thanks to many supportive child care professionals and working parents, we kept Utah's child care crisis in the media spotlight throughout the session. 

For a deeper dive into our efforts in various policy areas, as well as a recap of what happened to the many different bills we were tracking, check out the virtual booklet below! 

Download a Copy

The original version of this legislative recap misidentified the city of residence of a member of the Utah State Legislature. This has been corrected. For more information, please contact .

Published in News & Blog

Representative Susan Pulsipher’s HB 153: Child Care Revisions narrowly passed the Utah State Legislature on February 28, 2024, and was signed by the Governor on March 14, 2024.

Initially proposed as a child tax credit expansion initiative, HB 153 has evolved into a more complex bill with significant implications. This FAQ aims to address questions about the passed bill and explain its key components.

 What does HB 153 do?

There are three main components to this bill:

  1. Child Tax Credit Expansion: HB 153 expands Utah’s child tax credit to include 4-year-olds. Currently, children aged 1-3 are eligible if their family meets certain income criteria and has a tax liability. This expansion will make the credit available to 0.4% more families, benefiting 1.1% more children, with an average annual tax savings of $456 per eligible family.
  2. Unlicensed Provider Capacity Expansion: HB 153 increases the cap on the number of unrelated children an unlicensed provider can care for from 6 to 8 (current law remains at 10 children cap if also caring for related children). With this change, Utah now ranks as the second-worst state nationally in unregulated care capacity, trailing only South Dakota.
  3. New Unlicensed Provider Oversight: In response to concerns from the child care community, HB 153 introduces new requirements for unlicensed providers. They must now undergo criminal background checks through the Office of Child Care Licensing. Additionally, a new stipulation limits the number of children under 3 years old being cared for to 2. Previously, unlicensed providers operated without formal oversight or state requirements.

When will this go into effect?

Each component of the bill will go into effect at a different time:

  1. Child Tax Credit Expansion: Initially introduced under HB 170 in 2023, the Child Tax Credit, applicable to children aged 1-3, cannot be claimed until families file their 2024 taxes, in 2025. For families with eligible 4-year-olds, the credit won't be claimable until they file their 2025 taxes, in 2026.
  2. Unlicensed Provider Capacity Expansion: Starting May 1, 2024, unlicensed providers will be permitted to care for up to 8 unrelated children.
  3. New Unlicensed Provider Oversight: Background check requirements and restrictions on the number of children under the age of 3 in care will take effect on July 1, 2024.

How will this new oversight of unlicensed providers function under HB 153?

The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) within the Department of Health and Human Services already oversees residential child care licenses, which are required for providers caring for 9 or more children. OCCL also oversees the Residential Certificate program which is currently required for providers caring for 7-8 children. HB 153 now makes Residential Certification optional. 

Additionally, HB 153 essentially adds a new layer of regulated care, mandating background checks for providers caring for under 8 children who do not hold a license or certificate. Current law does not require background checks for anyone caring for under 6 children. HB 153 mandates the same level of background checks as licensed child care providers, covering all staff, volunteers, and individuals older than 12 residing in the residence.

The process and enforcement mechanisms are still unclear. The bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish rules for criminal background check submission. Similar requirements exist in Idaho, but enforcement is limited to instances where an unlicensed program is reported to the state.

Stay tuned for further guidance from the Office of Child Care Licensing regarding this process.

Will this increase access to child care? Will it decrease the cost of child care?

The answer is uncertain. While the state has previously expanded unlicensed child care capacity, the lack of tracking of unlicensed child care makes it impossible to gauge effectiveness.

Regulations are often blamed for high child care costs and limited availability, but studies show no direct correlation between state regulations and child care supply levels. Utah's Office of Child Care Licensing continuously strives to make licensing as easy to obtain as possible without compromising quality and safety standards.

There's no evidence to suggest this change will alleviate the child care crisis. In fact, experts predict it may decrease available child care by incentivizing programs to downsize and forego licenses.

Is this licensing change safe?

Just as there are undoubtedly reputable unlicensed providers, incidents can occur in licensed facilities as well. However, licensed providers benefit from established systems for monitoring and support, facilitating continuous improvement. The challenge with unlicensed providers lies in the lack of oversight—without clear regulations, identifying potential risks becomes difficult. 

Unfortunately, the impact of unlicensed child care expansion often goes unrecognized until horrible things happen and it's too late. Without state oversight, it’s important for parents to learn about the differences between licensed and unlicensed child care. Below is a comparison chart outlining key distinctions, but we encourage parents to leverage OCCL's resources for informed decision-making.

  Residential Certificate Child Care Provider  Unlicensed Child Care Provider Under HB 153
Background checks required for all child care staff, volunteers, and household members 12+  X X
(if enforced) 
Inspections of facility for safety  X  
2.5 hours of preservice training*  X  
10 hours of annual training*   X  
Always requires at least one caregiver present to hold current pediatric first aid and CPR certification  X  
Public access to rule violations available to parents  X  
Verified local business license, health department clearance, and fire clearance (when required by city)  X  
Must carry liability insurance or disclose lack thereof in writing to parents X  
Requires quality equipment, materials, and play areas that are safe, clean, adequate in size  X  
Verified safe caregiver-to-child ratios X  
Requires that no provider use corporal punishment or emotional abuse to discipline a child X  
Requires staff to mandatorily report any instance of suspected child abuse or neglect X  

 

* Training covers CPR, First Aid, home safety, emergency prevention, shaken baby syndrome prevention, sudden infant death syndrome prevention, care for children with disabilities, infectious disease control, child development, homelessness detection, and child abuse awareness.

This FAQ will be regularly updated with new questions and any developments from the Office of Child Care Licensing. If you have additional questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to Jenna at .

Published in News & Blog

This open letter was released on January 31, 2024, by Neighborhood House and Voices for Utah Children, two non-profit organizations working together with other community partners to create a better childcare system in Utah for the benefit of all the children in care. You can sign on, too, by completing this short form

The undersigned community leaders urge the Utah State Legislature to take bold action on proposals that invest more dollars into Utah’s early education and childcare infrastructure.

Investing in a robust, high-quality childcare system and creating in-state infrastructure, is one of the best investments we can make for our children, and our state.

A well-supported early care and education system supports families by increasing their earning potential so they can get out of, and stay out of, poverty. It also contributes to the success of children in our school systems and as future contributors to our community.

Approximately 77% of Utahns live in a childcare desert, demonstrating that the majority of our state lacks sufficient licensed childcare to meet families’ needs (Voices for Utah Children, 2023). This predicament stems from both limited availability of services and the strikingly high cost of quality care. When available, the high cost of care inhibits lower income families from participating in the workforce.

For childcare to be considered affordable, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that a family should pay no more than 7% of its household income for childcare services. In more than half of Utah's 29 counties, families are burdened with paying between 15% and 20% of their annual income for infant/toddler care at licensed childcare facilities. (Voices for Utah Children, 2023)

The current amount of investment by state government is insufficient to address these needs. Choosing high-quality childcare is out of reach for most families, and is unattainable by most childcare providers because of the labor-intensive nature of the industry.

Without government investment, families are left with low quality options that endanger children, and disincentivize providers. We are calling on the Utah Legislature to invest more dollars into the childcare industry. With cross sector collaboration between business, the philanthropic community, and government entities, we can address this crisis and become a model for the nation.

This is truly an investment, as the long-term positive outcomes for our state are significant.

  • Utah's economic prosperity is directly tied to the success and stability of its workforce. Currently, Utah’s economy loses $1.36 billion annually due to lack of childcare access. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2022)
  • Investing in our children during the most formative times of their lives staves off costly interventions that come later in life, including in our school systems. (Davis Schoch, 2023)
  • The outcomes are proven: Adults who receive early childhood education as children are more likely than their peers to finish high school, have higher lifetime earnings, and avoid involvement in the criminal justice system. (Davis Schoch, 2023)

We urge you to use your influence and position to champion increased prudent investment in our state’s childcare system.

Please, take bold action for our state’s future.

Letter Signatories
(as of March 31, 2024)

  • Lisa Eccles, President and COO, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
  • Spencer and Kristine Eccles
  • Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation
  • Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation
  • Angela and Zeke Dumke
  • Jeffrey & Helen Cardon Foundation
  • Richard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation
  • Carol W. and John H. Firmage, III
  • Millerberg Family Giving Fund 
  • Semnani Family Foundation 
  • The McGuire Family Foundation 
  • BMW of Murray
  • MINI of Murray
  • BMW Pleasant Grove
  • Firmco
  • Motoring Skins
  • Krystal Nielsen, Lil Oaklies Childcare
  • Katie Ricord, Utah Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Kristy DeGraaf, Childcare Provider, Children’s Tylenol National Childcare Teacher of the Year
  • IJ & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center
  • Salt Lake Chamber
  • Neighborhood House
  • The Children’s Center Utah
  • Utah Non-Profit Association
  • Utah Afterschool Network
  • United Way of Salt Lake
  • Ogden Contemporary Arts
  • Utah Child Care Cooperative
  • YWCA Utah
  • Holy Cross Ministries
  • Early Childhood Alliance
  • Utah Care for Kids Network
  • Utah Center for Civic Improvement
  • Voices for Utah Children
  • South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (Salt Lake City)
  • Canyon Creek Services (Cedar City)
  • Friends of the Children Utah (Kearns)
  • YCC Family Crisis Center (Ogden)
  • Seekhaven, Inc. (Moab)
  • Peace House (Park City)
  • English Skills Learning Center (Murray)
  • Northeastern Utah Friends Against Family Violence (Vernal)
  • Ashley Ence, Sunny Kids, LLC (Saint George)
  • Moab Community Childcare (Moab)
  • Bright Beginnings Academy (South Jordan)
  • KaRis KiDdos (Magna)
  • North Star Children's Center (Kaysville)
  • Little Geniuses Learning Center LLC (Pleasant Grove)
  • Little Orchard Preschools and. Learning Centers (Bountiful)
  • ABC Great Beginnings (Taylorsville)
  • Kool Kidz Adventure Academy (Clearfield) 
  • Tiny Woodland LLC (Bountiful)
  • Erin Aguilar (North Salt Lake)
  • Nando Arroyo (Salt Lake City)
  • Michelle Barker (Woods Cross)
  • Jenn Bean (Midvale)
  • Stacy Bernal (Ogden)
  • Robyn Blackburn (American Fork)
  • Ana Castaneda (Salt Lake City)
  • Merry Clift (Salt Lake City)
  • Dana Cremeno (Park City
  • Mikenna DeBruin (Draper)
  • Erica Flugan (Salt Lake City)
  • Carlie Fowles (Manti)
  • Maria Sara Gonzales (Salt Lake City)
  • Reverend Brent Gundlah (Salt Lake City)
  • Janie Harris (Nephi)
  • Tyler Harris (Nephi)
  • Jessica Jauregui (Salt Lake City)
  • Caressa King (American Fork)
  • Heather Larsen (Nephi)
  • Rhiana Medina (Moab)
  • Rylee Messick (Eagle Mountain)
  • Jessica Mirabile (Sandy)
  • Monique Montoya (West Valley)
  • Hayley Neff (Salt Lake City)
  • Curtis Price (Salt Lake City)
  • Stephen Scoville (Salt Lake City)
  • Sally Tauber (Park City)
  • Marisela Valerio (Salt Lake City)
  • Maria Zavala (Salt Lake City) 
  • Jamie Bitton (Ogden)
  • Kate Blanch (Ogden)
  • Tricia Bunderson (Lehi)
  • Amariah Gibbs (Salt Lake City)
  • Brenda Gonzalez (Salt Lake City)
  • Brittany Greenwood (West Jordan)
  • Eddie Greenwood (Salt Lake City)
  • Todd Hepworth (Santaquin)
  • Robin Hough (Salt Lake City)
  • Jeff Howell (Salt Lake City)
  • Jennifer Johnson (Syracuse)
  • Mariana Kraschowetz (Salt Lake City)
  • Amber Lewis (Kaysville) 
  • Alysse Loomis (Salt Lake City)
  • Lianna Lopez (Kamas)
  • Natalie Mason (Salt Lake City)
  • Bree Murphy (Salt Lake City) 
  • Reverend David Nichols (Salt Lake City)
  • Reba Kiger-kolasch (Salt Lake City) 
  • Connie Roller (Salt Lake City) 
  • Jennifer Rosas (Salt Lake City) 
  • Eduardo Rubalcava (Magna)
  • Sean Schilling (Smithfield)
  • Susan R. Madsen (Bountiful) 
  • Reverend Jamie White (Salt Lake City) 
  • Mackenzie Genecov (Park City)
  • Lucia Miramontes (Salt Lake City)
  • Julie Adam (Salt Lake City)
  • Shelby Averett (Salt Lake City)
  • Alison Dedman (Cottonwood Heights)
  • Monica Delgadillo (Bountiful)
  • David Durrant (Cottonwood Heights)
  • Elaine Ellis (Salt Lake City)
  • Hannah Eldredge (Salt Lake City)
  • Kayley Heier (North Salt Lake)
  • John Hewes (Salt Lake City)
  • Lindsay Larkin (Salt Lake City)
  • Jen Milner (Salt Lake City)
  • Brittany Mitchell (Salt Lake City)
  • Elizabeth Moon (Salt Lake City)
  • Reverend Chelsea Page (Salt Lake City)
  • Melanie Pehrson (Salt Lake City)
  • Erica Sánchez (West Valley City)
  • Catherine Sharpsteen (Salt Lake City)
  • Brooke Skelton (West Valley City)
  • Karla Smith (Salt Lake City)
  • Sadé Turner (Salt Lake City)
  • Paul Walker (Farmington)
  • Sue Womack (Springville)
  • Gabriella Archuleta (Holladay)
  • Sebastian De Freitas (Salt Lake City)
  • Jason Johnson (Salt Lake City)
  • Allison Nicholson (Salt Lake City)
  • Kalolaine Tamoua (Salt Lake City)
  • Cassidie Archuleta (Murray)
  • Richard Biren (Lehi)
  • Neal Davis (South Jordan)
  • Emmie Gardner (Bountiful)
  • Molly McFadden (Salt Lake City)
  • Meredith Muller (Salt Lake City)
  • Ze Min Xiao (Salt Lake City) 
  • Maggie Beers (Salt Lake City)
  • Vicki Dickinson (West Jordan)
  • Aubrey Meyer (Salt Lake City)
  • Maureen O'Malley Kirschner (Salt Lake City) 
  • Rebecca Burggraaf (Salt Lake City)
  • Jacqueline Diaz (Salt Lake City)
  • Emilie Anderson (Salt Lake City)
  • Nirla Harris (South Jordan)
  • Hannah McBrayer (Salt Lake City)
  • Danelle Montero (Salt Lake City) 
  • Diane Nielsen (Millcreek)
  • Brennan Replogle (Salt Lake City)
  • Leigh Tolboe (Salt Lake City)
  • Liliana Torres (West Jordan)
  • Sara Troutman (Salt Lake City)
  • Marcus Volk (Salt Lake City)
  • Grace Watts (Tooele)
  • Chris Weigel (Salt Lake City) 
  • Maxine Baldwin (Riverton)
  • Sam Mecham (West Jordan)
  • Melea Rogers (Ogden)
  • Rose Valderramos (Salt Lake City)
  • Jackilyn Wadsworth (West Valley City)
  • Jeanetta Wadsworth (Smithfield)

You can add your foundation, business, organization or name by completing our simple form below. 

Sign on today!

References

Davis Schoch, A. S. (2023). Children’s learning and development benefits from high-quality early care and education: A summary of the evidence. OPRE Report #2023-226. Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (2022). Untapped Potential in Utah: How Childcare Impacts Utah's Workforce Productivity and the State Economy. 

Voices for Utah Children. (2023). Mapping Care for Kids: A County-Level Look at Utah's Crisis in Licensed Child Care. Salt Lake City.

Published in News & Blog

Governor Cox unveiled his budget last week, and the general direction of the budget is positive. Voices for Utah Children is interested in some specific components of the budget that directly impact Utah children and their families:

Public Education

$854 million increase, including a 5% jump in per-pupil funding and $55 million for rural schools

This is a much-needed investment in public education. We support the focus on rural schools and are anxious to see the details as they emerge. Public education consistently polls as a top priority for Utahns of all political parties and backgrounds.

Support for Utah Families

 $4.7 million to expand Utah’s child tax credit and $5 million for accessible child care

We appreciate the fact that the Governor has begun to address the urgent needs of Utah families with young children. However, both allocations fall far short of the amount required to truly support and elevate these young families’ current needs. A truly impactful child tax credit would require an investment of at least $130 million, and the benefits in reducing child poverty in Utah would be substantial. Our recent report on child care in Utah clearly illustrates the need for bold action to support families in the workforce, who are struggling with the cost and unavailability of child care. The Governor’s $5M project will help very few Utah families and does not address the true need.

Housing

$128 million for homeless shelters and $30 million for deeply affordable housing

We support the Governor in his effort to better support the homeless residents of our state. We encourage a greater focus on expanding support for homeless children specifically. Early care and education opportunities for young children as well as more supportive programs for their parents and caregivers are critical to helping families find stable housing and better future opportunities. Investing in deeply affordable housing will help many Utah families.

Behavioral/Mental Health 

$8 million for behavioral and mental health

This is not enough to address the current mental health needs of Utahns – in particular, those of our children and the folks tasked with raising them. We need more mental health professionals and greater access to services. We know this is a major concern for the Governor and we encourage increased strategic investment in this area.

It is also important to acknowledge and applaud some items the Governor wisely left out of his proposed budget:

No Proposed Tax Cuts 

Utahns want to see more invested in our children while they are young, to prevent greater challenges later in life. It is our children who suffer most, when politicians toss our tax dollars away on polices that mostly benefit the wealthiest 1% of Utah households.

No Proposed Funding for Vouchers

Public funds should not be redirected to private entities. Utah needs an annual audit of the current program, to assess who is benefitting from school vouchers. In other states, the results are not good – vouchers are looking more and more like a tax break for wealthy families.


Bold Investments Needed for Utah's Children

Governor Cox's budget focuses on increasing funding for education, families, and affordable housing.

These are all areas where we believe bold investment is needed. We support the Governor in addressing these issues, but cannot overlook how this budget falls short in the face of the ongoing struggles faced by Utah families with children.  

We encourage our Legislature to use the Governor’s budget as a roadmap and increase the allocations to the amount needed.

Published in News & Blog
January 10, 2024

Our 2024 Legislative Agenda

At Voices for Utah Children, we always start with this guiding question: "Is it good for all kids?" That remains our north star at the outset of the 2024 legislative session, and is reflected in our top legislative priorities.

So, what’s good for all kids in 2024?

A Healthy Start!

A healthy start in life ensures a child's immediate well-being while laying a foundation for future success. We are steadfast in our commitment to championing policies that prioritize every child's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Central to this commitment is our focus on improving Utah’s popular Medicaid and CHIP programs, which are pivotal in the lives of many Utah children and families. 

This legislative session, a healthy start for kids looks like:

  • Empowering Expectant Mothers: We support a proposal from Rep. Ray Ward (R-Bountiful) to increase access to health coverage for low-income and immigrant mothers-to-be.
  • Increasing Access to Health Care: We support bills that aim to improve access to the vital healthcare services children and parents need, especially for those on Medicaid and CHIP.
  • Protecting Health Coverage: We oppose any effort to defund, and exclude deserving children from, the Medicaid and CHIP programs that help thousands of Utah kids every year. 

Early Learning and Care Opportunities!

The formative years of a child's life lay the foundation for their future, shaping their cognitive abilities, socio-emotional skills, and passion for learning. We will support efforts to increase access to home visiting programs and paid family leave, but ensuring consistent, quality, and affordable child care is our top priority.

This legislative session, early learning and care opportunities for kids looks like:

  • Bolstering Access to Quality Child Care: We support the efforts of both Rep. Andrew Stoddard (D-Sandy) and Rep. Ashlee Matthews (D-Kearns) to extend the successful Office of Child Care stabilization grant program that has supported licensed child care programs statewide.
  • Investing in High-Quality Preschool: We support an anticipated legislative proposal to streamline Utah’s existing high-quality school-readiness program and to make it available to more preschoolers statewide. 
  • Recruiting and Retaining Child Care Professionals: We support Rep. Matthews’ proposal to expand access to the Child Care Assistance Program for anyone working in the child care sector.
  • Building New Child Care Businesses: We also support Rep. Matthews’ proposal to continue funding for work to develop and support new child care programs in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

To view a more comprehensive list of our 2024 early care and learning legislative priorities, click here

Economic Stability for Families with Children!

Economic stability forms the bedrock of thriving families and vibrant communities. To ensure that young families in Utah have the support they need to afford basic necessities, we will advocate for increasing families’ access to Utah's earned income and child tax credits.

This legislative session, economic stability for families looks like: 

  • A Little Extra Help in the Early Years: We support HB 153, Rep. Susan Pulsipher’s (R-South Jordan) bill to expand Utah’s new Child Tax Credit, (currently only for children ages 1 to 3), to apply to children between 1 and 5 years of age. We also strongly recommend helping even more Utah families with young children by making the tax credit available for families with any child between birth and 5, and expanding it to include the thousands of lower- and moderate-income families who are currently excluded.
  • Credit for Working Families with Kids: We support HB 149, Rep. Marsha Judkins’ (R-Provo) bill to expand Utah’s Earned Income Tax Credit so that more lower- and middle-income families with children can benefit. 

Justice for Youth!

We want to ensure that all youth, including those who come into contact with the juvenile justice system, have access to interventions and supports that work for them and for their families. We are dedicated to advancing policies and recommendations that contribute to a more fair and equitable juvenile justice system for all Utah youth.

This legislative session, justice for youth looks like:

  • Prioritizing School Safety: We are monitoring bills from Rep. Wilcox (R-Ogden) and the School Safety Task Force, including: HB 14, “School Threat Penalty Amendments” and HB 84, “School Safety Amendments.” We remain hopeful that these efforts will support a secure learning environment for all students, without contributing further to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. 

Be an Advocate!

As we chart the path forward, one thing remains abundantly clear: the well-being, growth, and future of Utah's children rely on the decisions we make today. Each legislative session presents an opportunity—a chance to reaffirm our commitment, reevaluate our priorities, and reimagine a brighter, more inclusive future for all. 

Together we can continue to make Utah a place where every child's potential is realized, their dreams are nurtured, and their voices are heard.

Below are some ways you can get involved this session. 

Stay Informed with our Bill Tracker

Stay informed about important legislation we are watching and reach out to your local representatives to let them know how you feel about legislation that is important to you. We make it easy for you to subscribe and watch bills that you are most concerned about. 

VIEW TRACKER

 

Join us for Legislative Session Days on the Hill

Join us at the Capitol, where we offer attendees the opportunity to engage in the legislative process on a specific issue area (health and/or child care). You'll have the chance to attend bill hearings, lobby your legislators, connect with fellow community advocates, and watch House and Senate floor debates. Click the button below for the dates/times of our meetings and to RSVP.

RSVP TODAY

 

Celebrate Utah's Immigrant Community 

In collaboration with our partners at UT With All Immigrants, the Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging, and I Stand with Immigrants, we are organizing Immigrant Day on the Hill. Join us to discover ways to engage in Utah's civic life. Enjoy food, explore resource tables, participate in interactive activities, and entertainment. Everyone is invited to attend this free event!

Event Details: February 13, 2024, 3:30pm-5:30pm at the Capitol Rotunda, 350 State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103

RSVP TODAY

Published in News & Blog

When the pandemic hit, child care was one of the first sectors in crisis. But action in the form of federal aid and swift state program implementation prevented widespread program closures. The nearly $600 million Utah received in federal child care funds helped stabilize the historically struggling sector and defied national trends by expanding the number of child care slots available. This substantial funding is estimated to have supported child care services for over 85,200 children in Utah.

As federal COVID-era funds begin to wind down, child care providers and the parents they serve are looking to elected officials to ensure that the sector doesn’t immediately fall back into total crisis. Child Care Stabilization Grants, a key program of the funding, are currently playing a vital role in enabling child care providers to stay open, keep costs down for families, and raise wages in an industry that has been long plagued by inadequate compensation. Unfortunately, the lack of commitment from federal, state, or local governments to sustain these successful programs with new funding means most COVID-era programs will end, ultimately leaving parents with ballooning child care costs, and abandoning child care providers to navigate a broken system.

Starting in October, Utah families will begin to experience the impact of the child care funding cliff.

What change is happening this fall?

As federal funding runs out, Utah’s Office of Child Care (OCC) will reduce monthly Child Care Stabilization grant amounts by 75% in October. By June 2024, the grants will end entirely.

How will this change impact Utah providers and families?

Providers are preparing now for the impending grant reductions. For example, PC Tots, a program in Park City, already announced tuition increases due to a funding gap of $620,000 from the loss of ARPA money. One family reported a $1,000 monthly tuition increase for their two children enrolled in PC Tots, highlighting the financial strain this poses for many families.

The wind-down and ultimate end of stabilization grants also presents additional concerns for providers. When surveyed, 36.7% providers anticipate being unable to sustain wage increases for their child care staff or, in some cases, will have to cut wages. Without intervention, this will likely to lead to higher turnover rates among child care staff, resulting in more disruptions in care for families and a further reduction in available child care slots, statewide, due to understaffing.

How will the end of stabilization grants impact Utah's child care sector?

A recent report from The Century Foundation identified Utah as one of six states where half or more of all licensed child care programs statewide could close, without new funding to replace the federal support.

Their analysis estimates that in Utah:

  • 35,614 children will lose access to child care.
  • 663 child care programs will be forced to close their doors.
  • Parents will experience a collective loss of $101 million in earnings.
  • 1,304 child care jobs will be lost.

Deep, structural problems within the child care system existed well before the COVID pandemic; those problems will persist and worsen when COVID-era funding runs out. With 77% of Utahns living in child care deserts, parents already allocating 14-25% of their income on care, and providers making less than animal caretakers, we can’t afford to reduce our investment in child care. The child care market faces new challenges too. The current robust job market has made it increasingly difficult for child care providers to compete for good employees. And inflation has caused the cost of normal expenses to skyrocket for families. 

As we look towards the fall, parents and providers should prepare for these difficulties. But also, state and local policymakers need to pay attention and ask what they can do to mitigate a new child care crisis. 

 

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts examining Utah's child care funding cliff. You can find the other posts here:

To learn more about our initiative to invest in child care, go to UtahCareforKids.org

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The care for the children in our state and communities can be measured by our public investment in our smallest humans. From the fiscal year 2008 to 2022, Voices for Utah Children divided all state programs concerning children into seven categories, without regard to their location within the structure of state government to quantify the level of public funding and identify trends. The seven categories are:

  1. K-12 Education
  2. Health
  3. Food & Nutrition
  4. Early Childhood Education
  5. Child Welfare
  6. Juvenile Justice
  7. Income Support

An appendix of our tables, sources, methodology and description of programs can be found here. 

How Much We Spend

The interactive circle chart below compares how much we spend by category, program, and source of funding, just use the filter and click the category to zoom in.

  • K-12 Education makes up 92% of the state-funded portion of the Children’s Budget, while the federal-funded portion is more diversified across categories.

Spending Trends

We compare the budget to FY2008 because that was a peak year in the economic cycle before The Great Recession and all figures have been adjusted for inflation, so they are comparable across time.

  • From FY2008 to FY2022, total public investment in children increased by 43%, growing much faster than Utah’s public-school enrollment (district & charter schools) by 26%, or the child population ages 0-17 by 13% from 2008-2021.

The federal share of the Children's Budget has fluctuated between 18-26% but had its biggest increase at the beginning of the Great Recession and the Covid-19 Pandemic. This is also when state funding for the Children's Budget has declined, for example real state & local K-12 education funding fell by $206 million since FY2020, the largest two-year decline since the Great Recession in 2008-2010. Several years after the Great Recession the federal share of the Children’s Budget decreased and the state share started to increase again, something that will hopefully happen again as pandemic relief funding rolls back. 

Funding Sources: Federal vs. State

When the categories are disaggregated by source of funding, Food & Nutrition, Income Support, Health, and Early Childhood Education programs are mainly funded by federal sources, and Child Welfare, K-12 Education, and Juvenile Justice programs are funded mainly by state sources. And since Amendment G passed and allowed the income tax to be used to fund programs for children (in addition to K-12 and some Early Childhood Education & Nutrition Programs), the Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, and Health categories are funded primarily by the income tax. In FY2022, 98% of Juvenile Justice, 100% of Child Welfare, and 88% of Health categories of the state funded Children's Budget were funded by the income tax totaling to $475 M.

When examining the state-funded portion of the budget since FY2008 each category has a different story. 

  • Juvenile Justice programs declined the most in dollar amount, $32.9 M or 28% mainly due to a reduction in correctional facility and rural programs and it also had an increase in early intervention services which advocates consider to be a goal of juvenile justice reform.
  • Child Welfare programs declined by 16% or $21.8 M, mainly from the Service Delivery program which funds caseworkers to deliver child welfare, youth, and domestic violence services. 
  • Income Support declined 49% or $2.1 M and appears to be more cyclical, rising and falling with the Great Recession. Interestingly, the TANF grant is a mix of state and federal funds, and only a small amount goes to Income Support or cash assistance.[i]  
  • Food & Nutrition increased by 56% or $19.7 M due to an increase in liquor & wine tax revenues which supports the school lunch program.
  • Early Childhood Education had the largest percentage increase of 109% or $42.0 M mainly from the Upstart program but increasing in every program except Child Care Assistance.
  • Health has increased by 80% or $139.3 M from the Medicaid and CHIP program but also had a 58% or $12.4 M decrease in Maternal & Child Health. 
  • The category that has increased the most in dollar amount is K-12 Education.

K-12 Education Funding

State and local sourced funding for K-12 education increased by $1.6 billion in constant 2022 dollars from FY2008 to FY2022, but per-pupil spending only increased from $10,212 to $10,537 per student. This means that even though more is being spent in total dollars, it barely covers the increase in students during the same time.

In 1948, 100% of the income tax was allocated to public education, an increase from 75% when it was originally imposed in 1931. It was expanded in 1996 to include higher education, in 2021 to include non-education services for children and people with a disability, and may be expanded again depending on a 2024 ballot measure placed by the Utah Legislature.  

The income tax rate has been reduced in 1996, 2006, 2008, 2018, 2022, and 2023.  The graphs below illustrate a timeline of these changes and Utah’s total elementary and secondary public schools (district & charter) funding effort (including capital) as a percentage of personal income and rank compared to other states.

Unfortunately, the result is a downward trajectory and likely explains our second to last place in per-pupil funding in the country.[ii]

Utah's Education Funding Effort as a Percent of Personal Income

graph1

 

According to the fiscal notes, the last two bills that reduced the Income Tax rate in 2022 and 2023 estimated a loss of $1.3 billion in the Income Tax Fund from FY2022-2025 with more ongoing.[iii]

State & Local Funded Portion of K-12 Education

Another result of these changes has been shifts in the funding source for K-12 education. From the fiscal year 2008 to 2022, the federal-funded portion increased by 74% and the state-funded portion declined by 3%.

Meanwhile, Local sources have increased by 12%, possibly to meet the needs of their communities while state-funded sources decline and putting greater pressure on sources like the property tax which is more regressive than the income tax because it takes a greater toll on low-and middle-income families.

Rank of Utah's Education Funding Effort Compared to Other States

graph 2

We Need to Prioritize Children in the Budget

While Utah doesn’t have the most kids than any other state, we do have the highest share of kids in our population. And we as a community are entrusted to make sure they are cared for, safe, and have the tools they need to achieve their aspirations. As the Utah Legislature drafts, holds hearings on, debates, and passes the Utah state budget we hope they prioritize our most vulnerable and precious group, Utah’s children.

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[i] https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/tanf_spending_ut.pdf 

[ii] https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html 

[iii] https://le.utah.gov/~2022/bills/static/SB0059.html, https://le.utah.gov/~2023/bills/static/HB0054.html These fiscal notes show the loss from the income tax fund but they are not disaggregated by changes from the income tax rate or tax credit portion of the bills.

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Utah’s family demographics have changed. 53% of Utah families have all available parents in the workforce, making child care a necessity. These days, most Utah families need two incomes to maintain financial stability. But Utah’s licensed child care system struggles to meet the demand. Licensed child care program capacity is only sufficient to serve about 36% of all children under six whose parents are working.

To provide a comprehensive picture of Utah's current child care crisis, this report produced by Voices for Utah Children examines the availability of licensed child care across the state, and in each individual county. By conducting a detailed analysis of both the demand and supply of child care services, the report aims to provide policymakers and the public with a clear understanding of the urgent need for child care reform.

Download a copy of the report here.

County-Level Data

Child Care Access Data Fact Sheets by County are also available on our Utah Care for Kids website. Look up child care access in your county today!

Look Up County

 

Statewide Data

Children Potentially in Need of Care

 
All Children Under 6 Years Old 289,240
Children Under 6 Years Potentially in Need of Care 154,229
 Rate of Children Under 6 with Potential Child Care Needs 53%

Licensed Child Care Programming

 
Home-based Child Care Programs 940 
Center-based Child Care Programs 427 
Total Licensed Slots 54,804 
Percent of Child Care Need Met 36%

Cost of Care for Families

 
Average Annual Cost Home-based Child Care for Infant/Toddler $8,267
Average Annual Cost Center-based Child Care for Infant/Toddler $11,232
Average Annual Cost Home-based Child Care for Preschool-Aged Child $7,311
Average Annual Cost Center-based Child Care for Preschool-Aged Child $8,487
Number of Children Eligible for Subsidies  81,805
Number of Children Receiving Subsidies  11,665
Rate of Eligible Children Receiving Subsidies 14%

Child Care Workforce Compensation

 
Median Hourly Wage for Child Care Professionals $12.87 
Median Annual Salary for Child Care Professionals $26,770 

 

Takeaways

There is insufficient licensed child care in Utah to meet the needs of working families.

There are more than 154,000 children under the age of six living in Utah with all available parents in the workforce. But, there are only 54,804 licensed child care spots in 1,367 programs statewide. Licensed child care program capacity is only sufficient to serve about 36% of all children under six whose parents are working. That means the working families of nearly two-thirds of Utah’s youngest children must rely on alternate arrangements (such as utilizing family members, hiring or sharing a nanny, alternating parent work schedules, using unlicensed child care providers, or some combination of these).

The high cost of child care makes it even less accessible to low- and middle-income families, and rural families struggle most.

Affordability remains a significant hurdle with child care costs often consuming a substantial portion of a family’s income. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable child care as care that costs no more than 7% of a family's income. In Utah, the average annual cost of care for two children under the age of six (one infant, one preschool-aged child is $16,890, taking up about 17% of family’s income. For a family in rural Grand County, the cost of that care is actually higher at $17,339, consuming 41% of their income. The lack of dramatic differences in child care prices from county to county is an illustration of how little flexibility providers have to reduce tuition costs for parents, even in areas of the state where family incomes clearly can’t keep up.

 How costs play out for a typical four-person family with one infant/toddler and one preschool-aged child

 
Median Four-Person Family Household Income $100,752
Average Annual Cost of Toddler/Infant Care $9,193
Average Annual Cost of Preschool-Aged Care $7,678
Considered "Affordable" Child Care for this Family  $7,053
Average Amount this Family Will Spend on Child Care $16,871
Percent of Income this Family Will Spend on Child Care 17%

Licensed child care is insufficient in every county in Utah, though the level of unmet need varies from place to place.

Summit County emerges as the county with the highest percentage of child care need met (54%), followed by Carbon, (48%) Sevier (45%), Grand (45%), Salt Lake (45%), and Iron Counties (41%). All other counties have less than 40% of child care need met with licensed program capacity, and multiple rural counties (Daggett, Piute, Rich, and Wayne) have no licensed child care available at all.

With substantial public investment, Utah’s child care system has grown 31% since the start of the COVID pandemic.

Through various federal funding streams, nearly $600 million has worked to grow Utah’s child care capacity from approximately 42,000 licensed slots in March 2020 to over 54,000 in August 2023. In contrast to many other states, Utah has managed to increase its licensed child care capacity - despite substantial pandemic disruptions - through stabilization grants paid directly to existing providers for wage supplementation, startup support for new programs, and a one-time worker bonus of $2,000 per child care professional. These financial investments both expanded the enrollment capacities of existing programs as well as recruited new providers into the sector. However, with the ending of this funding in October 2023, Utah risks jeopardizing this incredible progress.

Recommendations

1. Commit to Public Investment in Child Care

Utah’s child care crisis requires public investment. Funding is needed to bridge the gap between what families can afford and the true cost of care. While businesses can contribute, their capacity to address this crisis is limited. There is no sufficient source of investment to address child care’s market failure aside from public funding. Child care should be valued in the same ways as the public education system, ensuring equal access and opportunities for all children. Currently, the burden of expensive early education falls largely on Utah families, with minimal public support, even though most brain development occurs before age six.

2. Help Parents Afford the Care They Want

Utah’s current child care system doesn’t promote parent choice. Child care affordability and accessibility severely limit family choice when it comes to child care, forcing decisions based on cost or access, rather than preference. This also impacts family planning and career choices. Parents are forced to make difficult choices, such as changing jobs, adjusting school and work schedules, or choosing suboptimal child care situations. To address these issues, policymakers should consider improving the child care subsidy program, expanding the child tax credit, and finding ways to help alleviate the financial burden on Utah families.

3. Support the Critical Work of Child Care Professionals

Child care professionals face significant financial challenges. Low wages and a lack of benefits, including healthcare and retirement, have made the profession unsustainable, leading to high rates of turnover each year. Since Utah’s current child care system only meets 36% of the state's need, Utah must invest in the early child care profession to attract and retain a robust workforce. To support child care providers, policymakers should consider measures including state funding of Child Care Stabilization Grants, wage supplement programs, eliminating barriers to licensure, and increasing access to employment benefits.

For questions or inquiries regarding this report, please contact Voices staff members: 

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