As a mom, I know how stressful things are right now. And I’m grateful for the childcare providers in my life for the valuable services they provide to families.
As a provider, I’m also stressed: The early education field is on the brink of catastrophe.
I know how important childcare is in the COVID-era. I own and operate the Educational Enrichment Center in Wilmington, and I serve as president-elect for deaeyc, the Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children.
We love supporting your kids and helping parents get back to work or care for loved ones. We know parents are stretched financially—and we value our role in the community, keeping our youngest healthy and growing during hard times.
But our industry is in trouble. We’re stressed too. Delaware has already funneled relief funds to providers—around $100 million—to prevent a total shutdown. But without continued support in the 2021 state budget, Delaware’s childcare industry will collapse.
Providers were already in crisis prior to the pandemic. We’ve dealt with a teacher shortage that spans nearly a decade.
The person taking care of your child Monday through Friday in an early learning center makes less money than the person who served your coffee at Starbucks. Even as they’ve proven their mettle through a pandemic, early learning professionals typically make around $11 per hour with no benefits.
Without enough quality professionals, kids and families can’t access care. Providers cannot offer open spots because we do not have the staff to accommodate more children. There have been and continue to be empty slots that cannot be filled because there are few options to find and recruit qualified staff.
Many people, especially parents, see childcare as a public good. But we don’t fund it like a public good.
While we are grateful for the light that has been shone on this issue already, we are beyond the breaking point and we continue to work in extreme conditions.
Expenses in the early learning industry are up 40 percent. Enrollment has decreased on average 50 percent. Teachers are leaving the workforce to care for their own children, provide care for family members, and take care of school age children who do not have access to in-person learning.
Right now, advocates are urging Governor Carney and the state legislature to continue investing in Delaware’s childcare community.
Click here to learn more about the #FundOurFuture campaign and to add your voice to the chorus.
As federal CARES act funding ends at the end of this year, providers are facing two choices: cut losses and close doors or face the daunting challenge of operating in an ongoing crisis – while keeping their staff, children, and families safe.
Up to now, providers have gone above and beyond to care for Delaware’s children and families. They have made countless accommodations to provide care and a safe, stable learning environment that also provides social emotional support for school-age children during a pandemic.
We can’t sustain this pace forever without help. Join me and many others and ask Delaware’s leaders to #FundOurFuture.
By Jamie Schneider, the owner and Director of Educational Enrichment Center DE, and President-Elect for deaeyc and a champion and advocate of early childhood education.