Washington state lawmakers passed a measure last year that made historic investments in child care. This year, providers want their representatives in Olympia to ensure the initiative is keeping up with the price of care.
The Fair Start for Kids Act greatly expands subsidy rates for child-care providers. But Pauli Owen, owner of Pauli’s Playschool in Bellingham, said the rates are based on a 2018 market survey. She said the rates need to be updated so providers can support their workers.
“When we have a field that, unfortunately, going to places like Starbucks or even fast food can pay more,” she said, “then our staff who are working with these little guys – it just creates this instability, and it makes it hard for children to be able to form those lasting relationships.”
Owen and her union, Service Employees International Union Local 925, have said they want the Legislature to fully fund Fair Start for Kids at the current market rate. State lawmakers are beginning to craft the budget as this year’s session enters its final stretch.
Mary Curry, who runs the Pathways Enrichment Academy in Tacoma and also is a member of SEIU Local 925, said child-care centers will have to shut down if they can’t get enough funding to keep staff.
“We stand as one of those businesses that keep the community thriving,” she said. “So, the importance of being able to sustain our business – by having a wage that would allow providers to stay open to support that community as well as their families – is important.”
Fair Start for Kids also aims to make child care more affordable for families in Washington state, where it already is among the least affordable in the country. The average annual cost for infant care is about $14,500, according to the Economic Policy Institute. For a 4-year-old, it’s about $11,000.
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He’s also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.
The above article was provided by Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.