LETTER: Families, child care services deserve help

To the editor:

Parents and child care workers are a child’s first teachers. Positive early experiences at home, child care and school are proven to prevent costly social and health and educational problems down the road for our next generation of citizens. Can we please all agree that preschool children need to have positive experiences from parents and child care centers?

Unfortunately, like many other states over several years, Wisconsin has experienced an approximate 70% loss of its child care programs — from 8,000 to 2,500. The remaining child care centers have stayed afloat during and beyond the pandemic years with the help of the federal Child Care Counts program. This has helped keep costs lower and paying workers a competitive wage. But federal funding for the program expires early 2024. Adding insult to injury, Wisconsin’s majority Republican-controlled state Legislature has opted to defund the program by 50% starting this June. Why?

The bottom line reality? Wisconsin’s businesses across the state are struggling to fully staff up, while at the same time, far too many parents are unable to return to work because they cannot find child care or afford the high cost.

To specifically address child care availability and affordability, as well as broader workforce development issues, Gov. Tony Evers called for a state legislature special session on Sept. 20 to “finish your work on the 2023-25 biennial budget, and pass a comprehensive plan to address our state’s chronic workforce challenges.” He also stated, “Despite the benefit of the largest surplus in the state’s history, Republicans rejected much of my workforce plan, all without providing any real justification, any kind of substantive debate or any meaningful alternative of their own.”

It may be likely that the Republican-controlled legislature will replay their tactic of gaveling in and immediately gaveling out of the special session, thus ending any discussion about the worsening child care issue.

Other states are coming up with innovative and aggressive solutions to this problem to stay competitive. Is it too much to ask that our state legislature work with Gov. Evers to do the same?

Children and their families are our future. Let’s help them. Please call your state legislators and ask them to work together with Gov. Evers to find a solution that supports child care programs and working families in Wisconsin.

Shirley Hinze, Shawano