connecticut childcare

Early Childhood Caucus Pushes for Legislation to Improve Childcare for Providers, Families

The caucus is meeting every two weeks and prioritizing legislation it wants to move forward this session.

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Advocates for early childhood education from Connecticut shared ideas on how to improve programs for young kids on the state and national level Tuesday.

A lack of affordable childcare is costing the country $122 billion a year, according to a new report from Readynation. The report indicates that figure has more than doubled since 2018. It states that policy inaction combined with the pandemic is costing businesses, parents and taxpayers billions of dollars in lost productivity, earnings and revenue.

Childcare advocates from Connecticut voiced their concerns about the industry on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. prior to the State of the Union address. Among them was Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat representing Connecticut, and Allyx Shiavone, the executive director of Friends Center for Children in New Haven.

They are calling for more relief for the nation’s childcare industry.

“The evaluation of society is measured in the ways we treat our youngest members. It is through this lens that I am here to demand action,” Shiavone said. “The nation’s economy rests on the shoulders of early care and education teachers, and the system that they’re in is on the brink of collapse. Parents pay too much. Educators make too little. Providers can barely survive, and kids cannot thrive.”  

In Connecticut Tuesday morning, advocates for early childhood education had the same message. Members of the Early Childhood Caucus met to discuss legislation they want to push on a state level.

During the years she’s worked in early childhood education, Georgia Goldburn said she has run into the same problems.

We were underfunded before the pandemic, and the system was really just chugging along. The pandemic really gave a major blow to the industry,” Georgia Goldburn, Hope for New Haven director, said.

Goldburn said because teachers’ wages are so low, there are six teacher vacancies at her center, Hope for New Haven. For parents, the limited space means limited access to care.

“You have classrooms that are shut down not because they cannot find children, but they cannot find staff,” Goldburn said. “We are licensed to serve 97 children. Right now, we are serving close to about 60 children, because we don't have the staff to open up all the slots that are available.”

That is why Goldburn was at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday, weighing in on legislation she wants lawmakers to pass to support early childhood education.

“This is a group of legislators and providers and lobbyists that are really trying to come together to change the face of early childhood education in the state of Connecticut,” Rep. Michelle Cook, (D-Torrington), said.

Cook leads these Early Childhood Caucus meetings every two weeks. There are several bills the group wants to advance, but on Tuesday they outlined some of their priorities. Those include funding education for kids from birth to age five, raising pay for childcare providers and growing the childcare workforce.

“We take those priorities and take them to the chairs of the of the important committees,” Cook said. “So whether it's Workforce and Labor, whether it's Education, whether it's Higher Education, we take those priorities, interject those into the pieces of legislation that were proposed for concepts, and hopefully that we get hearings to ensure that the public can come and testify.”

Merrill Gay, Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance director, says childcare capacity in Connecticut is down about 20% due to a lack of staff.

“Our childcare system is broken,” Gay said. “For families, it costs too much. For childcare providers, there isn't enough revenue to actually pay competitive wages. And as a result, the industry is short probably 4,400 staff.”

He says state subsidized programs especially feel the impact because they are not allowed to raise parent fees.

“The problem in childcare is primarily there's not enough money in the system, awe look to the state to help fill that hole,” Gay said. “Now we have a surplus. And the question is, will we prioritize our children and our workforce?”

Goldburn sees a pressing need that is impacting the state’s economy, and ultimately Connecticut kids and families.

“Families, especially in this period of inflation, just cannot continue to bear the full cost of care,” she said. “And we cannot ask a system that is incredibly weak and vulnerable to continue to underwrite the childcare system for the entire state.”

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