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Statewide report reinforces need for childcare progress
There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that creates a successful community.
Jobs, education, health and safety and infrastructure are high on the list, churches and civic organizations all work together to create the positive environment we need to function as a society.
Young families in our area are especially aware of the need for adequate, affordable childcare.
The McCook Economic Development Corp. is aware as well, and recently started the New Childcare Provider Jump Start program (http://bit.ly/2SCtlBQ) as well as other as scholarships and incentives for childcare providers to take more children.
Not only are young families aware of the childcare shortage, so are employers who have trouble attracting and keeping employees as a result.
So is the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission, which concluded in a recent study (http://bit.ly/3bwbIwv) that “critical responsibility is placed on a workforce that is undervalued and underpaid.”
Change is urgently needed in Nebraska, where more than 75 percent of children under age 6 are in some form of care while parents work -- an age, up to age 8, of “unparalleled human growth and brain development.”
A group of more than 40 Nebraska public and private-sector leaders worked on the report, “Elevating Nebraska’s Early Childhood Workforce: Report and Recommendations of the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission,” an effort that took three years.
Convened by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska in February 2017, the commission addressed a number of problems with Nebraska’s childcare:
-- Low Wages and High Turnover: The median annual salary for a teacher in a community-based early childhood setting is $18,706, which is below the poverty level for a family of three. About 27% of home-based and 20% of center-based teachers are on public assistance. It’s not surprising that teacher turnover is a result, as high as 26%.
-- Limited and Uneven Access to Affordable, High-Quality Care: 84% of counties do not have enough child care slots to meet the needs of families with young children, and a year of infant care can cost more than a year of college tuition. In 2016, more than 4,000 working parents were forced to leave, not accept, or change jobs because of child care problems.
-- Connection to Communities and Economic Development: The report concluded that each dollar spent on high-quality early care and education yields an average return of $4, or as high as $13 in circumstances where children are extremely vulnerable.
The commission’s goals:
-- Ensure the early childhood workforce is highly qualified and reflects the diversity of the children and families they serve.
-- Fully fund high-quality care and education by 2030.
-- Nebraskans champion the critical role of the early childhood workforce in young children’s learning and development.
-- Implement the commission’s recommendations through the formation of a statewide coalition.
Next steps are for the commission to share the report and recommendations with fellow Nebraskans and begin to convene a statewide coalition that will be involved with implementing the recommendations.
Early childhood education and childcare advocates have their work cut out for them to achieve those goals, but any progress is needed and welcome, especially in McCook and Southwest Nebraska.