If you care about Minnesota’s future, fully fund child care | Opinion

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As directors of child care centers, we want every family to have access to the quality child care they need no matter their skin color, how long they’ve lived here, or what’s in their wallets. Gov. Tim Walz took a step towards this goal in his proposed 2021 budget by proposing that the wealthiest Minnesotans contribute their fair share so that our state’s children have a great start and bright future.

The Minnesota House Early Childhood Finance Committee has advanced an even better proposal, to restore child care reimbursement rates to levels they haven’t been in well over a decade. With these pooled resources we will be able to expand assistance for child care centers and for families to access care. 

Throughout the pandemic, child care providers across the state have worked tirelessly to support our youngest Minnesotans and working families. Despite over a decade of chronic underfunding, we continue to show up every day for our communities.

Walz’s proposed funding will go towards providing the quality care we strive for and that our children need.

As Lynn Hoskins, director of Creative Early Learning Center in Minneapolis points out, with what centers charge, many might think they are making a profit. In reality, most centers operate on a razor thin budget with as much as 85% of tuition covering staffing and the rest going toward supplies and overhead costs.

In fact, child care teachers in Minnesota only make an average of $24,000 a year. Hoskins says: “I have lost multiple staff to the Cub Foods across the street because they can make more there.”

The additional funding will allow centers to pay our teachers a more liveable wage. With better compensation, we can keep passionate and skilled teachers in the industry and sustain them to build crucial long-term relationships with children and the community. 

Additional funding will also go to resources our centers need to build a quality learning environment for the children.

Greta Holupchinski, a lead teacher at YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities Child Care, has worked at public, private and non-profit centers for the past 15 years. She emphasizes the importance of funding for centers to afford adequate staff and materials.

“I and my coworkers know that the best strategies to work on behavior issues happen one-to-one, but we aren’t able to carry them out when there aren’t enough staff in our classrooms,” she told us. Holupchinski also notes that materials, which are important for teaching large and fine motor coordination, often can’t be reused now because of pandemic hygiene rules. 

Expanding assistance will also allow more families to access the care they need. We have many families who have been on the assistance wait-list for months or even years. While they wait, they must piece together the care they need. Often families can only afford part-time care and then have to scramble to find friends or family to cover the rest. Our working families and children deserve quality child care, and the governor’s budget is a major step in the right direction.

As Minnesotans, we come together to help our neighbors through the snow and tough times. Walz and House leadership clearly recognize that we have enough to fully fund child care when all Minnesotans — including the wealthiest and big corporations — pay their fair share. We can keep building this kind of substantial and ongoing support for each other into our state and national governments.

Our local legislators should fully fund child care, so we can come out of this pandemic stronger together.