Opinion | Fixing the child-care crisis

[The Washington Post] Opinion | Fixing the child-care crisis

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We applaud the push in the Oct. 12 editorial “Fix the child-care industry” for greater public investment in child care, including in technological solutions. The industry is a public good that benefits everyone. Yet Maryland is facing a child-care crisis that could be partially solved with an upgrade of technology.

Maryland’s Child Care Scholarship program provides financial assistance to families who meet income eligibility requirements. Maryland Family Network just released “The Unrealized Potential of Child Care Scholarship in Maryland.” Providers told us that outdated processes, poor customer service, inconvenient hours, disorganized record-keeping and a need for greater linguistic competencies keep timely payments from being made to child-care programs or sometimes not being made at all.

This problem only worsens an already inequitable system of early education. Many providers admitted to turning away families who qualify for this subsidy because the state’s inefficiency was too burdensome. Investing in technology would allow providers to track scholarship applications online, improve accounting, help remove language barriers and allow providers to handle business during the hours that work for them. Streamlined procedures would change the futures for countless children who, because of outdated systems, are being relegated to unsafe and unequal care.

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Laura Weeldreyer, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Family Network.

I was excited to read the editorial about child care until I realized it ignored the historic work happening in D.C. Rather than wait on federal money to save child care, the D.C. Council approved a modest tax increase on the city’s highest-income residents to fund a permanent compensation increase for early-childhood educators, including health benefits.

Meaningfully transforming the child-care industry means public financing: Paying teachers what they deserve and providing quality care cost far more than what most families can afford. Until policymakers step up with public dollars, child-care supply will always be as inadequate as teacher pay, and families will be plagued with unaffordable child-care costs.

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By starting with better compensating our teachers, D.C. leads the nation in rebuilding a broken child-care system. As the editorial correctly stated, in a town where mainly Black and Latina women early educators have struggled to make ends meet on an average of about $31,000 annually and often relied on public assistance for health care and housing, there has been a workforce exodus. Many left the field at the height of the pandemic for higher-paying jobs. But those who stayed remain committed to giving our youngest the strongest educational start and building their own skills to do so. And it’s high time we paid them fairly for it.

Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, Washington

The writer is director of early childhood for DC Action.

The Oct. 12 editorial on child care accurately identified the long-brewing crisis in child care. But as leaders in the child-care movement — and as parents — we know that piecemeal solutions will not suffice.

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Child care is a vital piece of our collective infrastructure that allows parents — especially moms and people of color — to work, engage in civic life and contribute to our communities. To create a system that works for everyone, we must recognize child care as the public good that it is and invest in it accordingly.

Children and families need stable care that meets their needs and is not tied to employers or employment. Providers, who are overwhelmingly women of color with their own children, need wages that sustain their families.

We agree that states should follow the lead of New Mexico to develop creative ways to fund and revitalize child care locally. However, Congress must also make significant and sustained investments to finally build a child-care system that works for our country’s families, providers and economy.

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Parents and providers are stretched beyond their limits. It’s time to invest in transformational changes to our child-care system that will advance racial and gender justice nationwide.

Erica Gallegos and Andrea Paluso, Washington

The writers are co-directors of the Child Care for Every Family Network.

The Oct. 12 editorial on child care provided a perfect diagnosis of the problems besetting the child-care sector. Yet the solutions — though in some cases spot on, such as the need for greater government investment — were nowhere commensurate with the scale and scope of the problem. Bandages don’t fix broken bones, just as technological progress and on-site corporate day care don’t address the fundamental costs of child care.

Many policymakers agree. Which is why it’s surprising that the editorial made no mention of the fact that Congress just got closer than it has in 50 years to solving our child-care crisis. The robust policies included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act would have guaranteed every family a range of high-quality options to meet their child-care needs, expanding the number of affordable spots, raising provider wages and ensuring free care for those with the least resources.

Might eliminating parking space requirements be more feasible in the current political environment? Sure. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the solutions that families truly need and that will actually work.

Julie Kashen, New York

The writer is director of women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation.

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