Jan 17, 2022

Early Learning Center opening helps, but child care pay is still an issue

Posted Jan 17, 2022 3:36 PM


Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Early Learning Center at Our Redeemer Lutheran has reopened with the capability of covering just 17 kids, when they were between 50 and 60 at full capacity at the time of their closure in August.

"Based on our current staffing levels, we wouldn't be able to take any more children at this time," said director Jessica Carpenter. "I, obviously have some prospective staff, but, of course, that's always an issue, finding quality staff."

The problem is child care, as an industry, hasn't paid enough in the area, traditionally.

"What we're asking is people to have a lot of experience and then we are only paying them $8 to $10 an hour, with most of the time, zero benefits," said Denice Gilliland-Burbank with the United Way. "When you combine those two things, you've created a perfect storm of continuous staff turnover, which makes it really hard for the centers to operate in a capacity that allows them to have highly trained staff and also provide a really great learning environment for children."

Also, substitute teaching, particularly now that requirements have been lessened to just a high school diploma, is competitive compensation with a $10 an hour job, with the flexibility of being able to say no when you need to, for those with a heart for kids.

"That's probably the same type of person that would be willing to do either one of those jobs," Gilliland-Burbank said. "So much of it comes down to pay for individuals. Our child care centers will tell you, most of the time they lose their really great lead qualified staff to the school districts or to Head Start, because then they can at least get benefits."

Child care advocates say it is important for the business community to understand the breadth and depth of the problem if long-term solutions are going to be available.