Letter: Urge Minnesota legislators to continue offering Child Care Stabilization grants – InForum

Over the past few years, most of us have been looking for any silver lining we can get. Those of us who work in child care have found the smallest piece of one – most people finally understand that child care in Minnesota and the US is in danger of collapsing. The pandemic exposed the dysfunctional child care system in Minnesota that is unaffordable for parents, but leaves providers unable to pay living expenses to their staff. It is a system that needs public funding to survive.

The Child Care Stabilization Grants we have received over the past two years have shown us exactly what a fully funded child care system can look like. The grants have made a world of difference in providing support to our program, employees and small business as a whole.

Child care centers have been operating for decades with no financial “filling”. We have too many fixed costs. Staff take up the bulk of our budget at around 70% (Note that many business experts do not spend more than 50% of your budget on salaries.). Another 20% is used for facilities, and the last 10% for everything else. We have such limited budgets that family members at our center make an effort to do maintenance when they are not doing their full-time job.

The Child Care Stabilization Awards did exactly what they were meant to do – they stabilized child care. One of our biggest challenges is finding and retaining skilled staff. We compete with fast food and retail that can afford to pay higher wages. But to pay our teachers higher wages, we need to raise rates for families, and they are already stretched as far as possible.

The Child Care Stabilization Grants have determined that 70% of the allowances go to increase compensation. We were delighted to be able to do this for our teachers. Prior to the grants, our center was able to pay head teachers only $ 15- $ 16 per hour. Now we pay $ 18- $ 18.50. We were able to move full-time assistant teachers from $ 12 per hour to $ 15 per hour and bring part-time assistants and staff to the $ 12- $ 14 per hour range. It was great.

We were also able to provide our employees with health insurance for the first time and afford to cover a larger percentage of it for them. We now also offer short-term disability, life insurance and simple IRAs. These benefits enable us to treat our employees the way they deserve to be treated.

Our teachers are amazing. Most of our children are far beyond kindergarten level when they go to kindergarten – because of our fantastic teaching program and teachers. Our teachers also love their jobs, but they fall into one of three categories – those who have partners who make a lot of money, those who are under 26 and still on their parents’ insurance, and those who work two to three jobs to trying to get out.

They should all be able to work one job to get by without relying on partners or families. The stabilization grants moved us further towards that reality and gave us a greater chance of retaining our employees. Losing employees is a real danger. We lost three employees in one week before – two left for higher paying positions with full benefits.

So what happens when the grants end? We cannot reduce wages or take away benefits. We will rightly lose staff and will probably never be able to replace them. We will have no choice but to raise rates for families. And these families are like our own families. Our teachers are also our family. They do some of the most challenging and valuable work in our communities. The stabilization grants are essential for us.

Minnesota has a budget surplus of $ 9 billion. We only need a fraction of it to permanently fund childcare in our state and provide quality care in the kind of system that families, children, providers and teachers earn. Child care centers across Minnesota are asking the state to continue with the stabilization grants, or run the risk of not having a child care system at all.

Jill Magnell is the owner and director and Brittany Anderson, Mariana Molina, Taylor Schlappenbach and Kylee Tack are teachers at Little Discoveries Learning Center in Moorhead.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum’s editorial staff or Forum ownership.

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