116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Going into the 2022 Iowa legislative session, there was a lot of talk about addressing the state’s shortage of affordable child care. It’s major issue that affects scores of Iowa families and exacerbates the state’s workforce shortage.
Iowa is among states with the highest percentages of families where both parents work. There are child care “deserts,” where care providers can’t be accessed. A task force was formed by Gov. Kim Reynolds to study the problem. Many lawmakers campaign on improving access and affordability.
But as the legislative session winds down, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate produced just two bills. And they fail to address some of biggest problems plaguing child care in Iowa, including establishing new centers, lowering costs for families and raising wages for child care workers.
One bill will allow 16-and 17-year-olds to work unsupervised in child care facilities. The measure would also loosen supervision rules for all child care workers, allowing one worker to supervise seven 2-year-olds or 10 3-year-olds.
The second bill would allow child care providers to ask low-income parents who receive state child care assistance to pay the difference between that assistance and the normal cost of child care services. The agreement would have to be put in writing.
These are disappointing, to say the least.
Allowing less supervision of young children in child care centers, potentially by teenage employees who have may or may not have proper training is a risky proposition we doubt most child care providers will embrace. And if they do, it’s out of panic due to a lack of staffing options. So it’s unlikely to improve accessibility or availability. Cutting costs by creating a less-safe environment not only doesn’t solve a problem it creates new ones.
The state should, instead, be helping providers pay low-wage veteran staff more.
Republicans contend allowing centers to ask low-income families to pay more will make it more likely providers will take more families receiving assistance. But how does that help if families can’t afford it?
These bills represent a failure by the Legislature to address a major problem facing Iowans. The each should be vetoed. Then lawmakers should spend some time on the campaign trail this fall actually listening to providers and families to find out how the state can truly help.
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