In Connecticut, there is a new call for universal child care. A coalition, that includes providers and parents, has launched a campaign called Child Care For Connecticut’s Future.
They want long-term change, not what they believe is a band-aid fix or limited solutions. The group is already bringing ideas to lawmakers.
The coalition released a video Friday to kick off the campaign. Organizers say early childhood education is underfunded. They say they want two concrete changes: fair compensation for educators and more affordable child care.
“If you look at an annual costs, it costs more to pay for early education for your little one than it does to put your child that's going through a state university through University, which is kind of mind-boggling.” Eva Bermuda Zimmerman, CSEA SEIU Local 2001 child care and organizing director, said.
Organizers say the pandemic has put the spotlight on early education, so now is the time to utilize federal funds including money that could come into Connecticut from President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
Many Connecticut families are being impacted by the struggle to find child care. Balancing work with parenthood means a lot of juggling.
It’s the case for Katie Thomas, in Hamden. She struggles to work out a schedule with her husband who works third shift.
“Then one of us has to be home with the baby, and then she has an older sister that’s in kindergarten, so it’s been a little bit of a juggling act,” Thomas said.
Thomas shares the skill of multi-tasking with Rebecca Alicki, who lives in Southington. Both moms have two very young children. Both decided the balancing act was not worth it.
“Do I go to work, or do I need to pay for child care? I mean, there's, there's almost no way to do both,” Alicki said.
Both Thomas and Alicki left their jobs and opted out of child care for the same reason: cost.
“I had to make a decision, unfortunately, to just not work for a few months, which I'm sure I think a lot of women are having that issue,” Thomas said.
They say financially, it was not logical to continue working.
“It just didn't make sense to put both of our kids into full time care, because really, one of us would just be going to paying for child care,” Alicki said.
Cost is not the only prohibitive factor. They say it is also hard for parents to find space for their young kids in a Pre-K classroom.
“We were told on multiple occasions that there wasn't enough staff in in a facility that we were already paying for,” Alicki said. “I have friends and family members who are 30, 40 something on waitlists. So ultimately, parents aren't able to choose between providers that they feel are the best fit for their family, and just have to choose who's available.”
In Bristol, Maegan Adams runs two early childhood education centers, and understands the staffing struggles.
“I have teachers who come in and they request a certain dollar amount, and I just I can't meet it because I'm state subsidized. So my funding is very limited. How much money I have is pretty much all I get,” Adams, Bristol Child Development Center Executive Director, said.
She says since early education teachers are required to go through extensive training and earn degrees, they are not being compensated fairly.
“Some teachers are leaving, they're going to work at the big stores, box stores, you know, Amazon, Walmart, Target, they're making $15 to $16,” Adams said. “My son just got a job, $18.98, almost $19 an hour, at Amazon, and all he has a high school diploma. And so I can't compete with that.”
It is why she is behind the campaign for universal child care.
“Teachers are worthy of affordable, livable wages,” she said.
Thomas and Alicki also support the campaign.
“I think it should be one of the most important issues that our legislators face,” Aicki said. “I know I'm not a unique story. I know, personally, many, many other moms, specifically, that were faced with this decision.”
Organizers say details about the campaign are on their new website, ChildcareForCT.org. They say they will keep pushing their message at legislative round tables, meetings, and rallies.