Advocates urging Texas lawmakers to address childcare shortage
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - As parents across the state struggle in their search for affordable childcare, advocates are asking lawmakers in Austin to make it a priority.
With an excess of $33 billion going into the legislative session, some advocates say part of this session should focus on helping the youngest Texans.
David Feigen with Texans Care for Children says it’s time for state leaders to find the solution to the lack of available and affordable childcare plaguing Texas parents.
“It’s been a challenge for working family’s pocketbooks,” Feigen said. “It’s been a challenge for children being school ready.”
Feigen hopes the legislature’s $33 billion surplus will be the answer.
“If we can invest that in compensation bonuses for childcare educators, to keep them in the field and recruit more,” Feigen said. “If we can invest in the reimbursement rates that the state pays, if we can continue some of the very successful sustainability grants that the state launched during the pandemic, if we can invest in continuing those grants to help programs pay for fixed costs, like property taxes and educator wages. if we can make those big investments, we’re going to be able to stabilize our childcare infrastructure.”
Feigen says the current lack of funding is leaving high quality facilities with empty classrooms due to an inability to pay workers a livable wage.
“They can make more money at the fast-food restaurant across the street than they can make in taking care of our kids,” Feigen said. “These directors tell us about parents calling them in tears saying we can’t find a place for our kids, are you sure you can’t squeeze them in, and they don’t have the teachers.”
As the shortage grows, it’s creating geographical anomalies where in many locations, childcare simply isn’t available.
“We have childcare deserts across the state where there are not sufficient care options available for the amount of families there. And the main reason for that is the lack of educators.
That shortage is now snowballing into other parts of the state’s economy.
“So, until we invest in ensuring the childcare is available, we’re going to continue to see staff vacancies across the board across other sectors.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Feigen says nearly 10% of childcare options were lost. And if the financing issue isn’t addressed during this session, that number will continue to grow.
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