As a mother of four, stepmother of three, and grandmother to several; I understand the need for high-quality, affordable and accessible childcare. It serves not only children and families but the entire workforce.
According to US Census data, 70% of Vermont children under the age of six are children whose parents are, by necessity, in the labor force. That adds up to a whole lot of families needing to figure out some form of care for their children while they’re at work to support those families. When young children don’t have access to high-quality child care that their families can afford, we miss a critically important opportunity to support healthy brain development and lay the strongest possible foundation for the future.
Equally important, Vermont continues to face a serious shortage of licensed early educators, and qualified early childhood teachers and assistants, wages and benefits are continually 30% below market rates to comparable positions in education and state government. If Child care providers are expected to continue to provide high quality services, wages and benefits must sustain the workforce and we as state legislators must look harder for opportunities to do so.
As we talk about policies to address our aging demographic and shrinking workforce—our pressing need to attract young families to Vermont--high-quality, affordable child care is a key part of the equation. Young people are looking for great places to raise a family, and foremost among those considerations is access to quality early care and learning that allows them to accept great employment opportunities while knowing that their children are thriving in nurturing environments. The importance of this was underscored in a 2016 report by the Vermont Business Roundtable that indicates that Vermont businesses that are able to provide childcare onsite, found real dividends in better productivity, less absenteeism; less turnover, and happier employees.
And sadly, another reality of this crisis is that Vermont's child care shortage disproportionately impacts women, who are three times more likely to leave their careers than men when families can't find child care. It also has a negative ripple effect on our businesses, schools, communities, health care system and our economy as a whole.
This issue cannot be solved with good intentions alone, it’s going to take investment. I believe that we must continue the conversation about how we’re actually going to solve Vermont’s child care challenge examine how we can more fairly invest in childcare until we talk our way into a solution that is good for all of Vermont.