116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa lawmakers are continuing their work on bills in response to recommendations issued last year by a state child care task force. We worry policymakers are focusing too much on deregulation and not enough on providing adequate resources to make child care more accessible.
Stakeholders often point to a few statistics which by now are well known by Iowans who are following the issue — our state has one of the highest rates of children with all parents working outside the home and about a quarter of Iowans live in “child care deserts,” meaning there is a severe shortage of licensed providers. The average monthly cost of child care is more expensive on average than housing for an Iowa family.
The child care situation is a burden on Iowa’s economy, draining family incomes and limiting parents from fully participating in a workforce that already is stretched thin. It deserves the Legislature’s attention but
Two child care bills advanced out of Iowa Senate committees this week, both of which face concerns from child care advocates.
House File 2127 would allow providers to collect payments from families who receive assistance, above and beyond what the assistance program provides. That might open more opportunities for families who can afford to pay but doesn’t help keep costs in check.
House File 2198 would allow people age 16 and older to provide child care to school-age children without additional supervision from older workers. Allowing teenagers to fill more roles at day cares isn’t the worst thing in the world but it doesn’t get us very far toward building up a robust network of child development programs.
Instead of just relaxing the rules and tinkering with the payment structure, we’d like to see more investments like the state is doing with its Child Care Challenge grant program. That fund is directing millions of dollars to open new and expand existing child care centers across the state.
Legislators seem to be cutting corners in hopes of bolstering the child care center. Instead, the emphasis here should be on giving child care centers the resources they need to operate effectively.
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