by Ruth Schmidt
High-quality, affordable and accessible child care is critical. Wisconsin parents know it, business and community leaders know it and child care professionals know it.
With the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee recent unanimous approval of a $194 million investment in our child care infrastructure, we know Wisconsin policymakers also continue to recognize child care’s critical importance for the health and well-being of our youngest children – and the economic health of the state.
The child care sector and dedicated child care professionals desperately need this influx of support. Most importantly, as our society moves forward, our child care infrastructure requires steadfast support to meet the ongoing demands of working parents, businesses, the economy and communities across the state.
When we support the child care infrastructure, the ripple effect extends to all children, families and communities in Wisconsin.
That is why the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association applauds the Department of Children and Families and legislators for this critical support of child care through the allocation of second-round federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The investment is especially timely because of the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on working parents, businesses and child care professionals across the state.
The investments include increases in support for the educational attainment and salary supplements for child care professionals, ongoing payments to support child care programs, and shared services to provide a statewide network of back-office support for programs. It also includes funds for infant early childhood mental health consultation and a program that will allow businesses to assist their employees in purchasing child care.
We know this is a move in the right direction – a critically necessary direction – especially given Wisconsin’s longstanding child care challenges that were made significantly worse by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We know child care remains unaffordable for many, is difficult for families to find and maintain – especially in rural areas – and is staffed by a child care workforce that is experienced and dedicated but woefully undercompensated for the critical role they play in caring for children and supporting parents’ ability to work.
When the early childhood workforce is supported – now and into the future – we will all be on the path to healthy and stable children and families, businesses and communities, and a healthy, thriving Wisconsin.