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Republicans Prove Nothing Good Happens After Midnight PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31   
Wednesday, 21 June 2023 09:48

childcareRepublicans on the Joint Finance Committee have chosen to cut continued childcare funding from the 2023-25 state budget, a shortsighted move that will lessen productivity and hurt working families statewide.


BRUNSWICK, WI - As a father of two adult children, I remember the 2:00 AM feedings when my kids were babies. I wanted nothing more than to just sleep, but I’d stumble out of bed and do what it took to care for the crying baby.

On Sunday we celebrated Fathers’ Day, but around 1:00 AM on Thursday last week parents of young kids were probably too groggy to watch Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee gut the Child Care Counts program in the budget. That was the Father’s Day gift to Wisconsin families from Republicans.

Child Care Counts was the last lifeline for child care providers to stay open. This one terrible and senseless vote will make a really bad situation for kids go to worse.

The Child Care Counts program was born from a serious problem highlighted by the pandemic. Before COVID-19 hit Wisconsin, child care deserts were already forming. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families classifies a child care desert as an area where there is no licensed child care provider or there are more than three children under the age of five for each licensed child care slot.

According to the Center for American Progress, 54% of Wisconsinites live in a child care desert. The problem is most prominent in rural communities. There are 1.3 million people in rural communities that coincide with a child care desert versus only 403,000 people in an urban child care desert.

Like many other things we saw as vulnerabilities, the pandemic turned the child care shortage into a full-blown crisis during the pandemic. Fortunately, our pre-existing child care desert problem was alleviated by the Child Care Counts program during the pandemic. It buoyed our crisis and kept our child care centers afloat. The program ran out of money in April of this year. Now child care providers are trying to make ends meet without the funding or the workers to make it happen.

wisconsin_senateMany people may think, “Well, I don’t have kids in daycare. Why should it matter to me?” Children’s success and our society’s success hinge on children ages 1-5 getting the care and education they need to thrive later in life. We all do better if our kids do better.

restaurant-emptyIt’s not just about early childhood development. The worker shortage is directly related to the lack of affordable and accessible child care. You’ve probably noticed your favorite restaurants closing, or how long it takes to schedule a doctor appointment or other delays and shortages in our current economy. Lack of affordable and accessible child care has forced parents to drop out of the workforce in droves. In fact, according to Raising Wisconsin, a multi-partner coalition of child care advocates, the child care crisis before the pandemic forced Wisconsin to lose $1.9 billion in lost productivity, earnings and revenue.

Republicans throughout Wisconsin have been griping about the workforce shortage. Despite our lowest recorded unemployment rate of 2.4%, Republicans continue to beat up on people struggling to find work. At the same time, they’ve decided to axe the one program designed to keep parents in the workforce. Next time you hear Republicans complain about worker shortages, ask them why they are contributing to the problem instead of fixing it.

jeff-smithIt’s well known that child care providers have been historically underpaid and the worker shortage has taken its toll on child care facilities. Most child care providers are paid less than convenience store clerks or fast food workers. Child care workers have moved on to better paying jobs. Without qualified child care workers there has been a corresponding decrease in child care openings. Less openings for kids means more parents need to drop out of the workforce to take care of the kids.

Our economy is very complex and rarely are there ever simple fixes. The Child Care Counts program was a very simple solution that would’ve made serious progress for our economy and society as a whole. It’s been said that nothing good happens after midnight. Cutting Child Care Counts in the early morning on Thursday last week was no exception to that rule.


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 June 2023 10:26
 
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