HARTFORD – The cost of daycare for a family with two children can exceed a mortgage payment and many parents can’t keep up with the cost. Now, that the federal government has failed to step up, child care advocates are calling for the state to step in.
A bipartisan group of legislators and childcare workers met at the state Capitol Wednesday to address the need for financial support.
Wednesday’s press conference was a continuation of the statewide “Morning Without Childcare” protests. Parents and caregivers were asking for $700 million from the state in order to support livable wages for educators, upkeep of facilities, and ensure that all children have access to quality childcare.
Rep. Robert Sanchez, D-New Britain, said that workers in the preschool system are the lowest paid employees in the state of Connecticut. Despite having bachelor’s or even master’s degrees, Sanchez said that educators are making at or just over minimum wage.
“That is so disrespectful to the profession,” he said.
In February, a group of over 400 educators came together to ask the state to put forth the funds necessary to improve the system. This funding would ensure livable wages for educators, provide supplies for early education centers, and allow for subsidized tuition to parents.
Senate Democrats also announced in February plans to expand the availability of preschool programing and child care through a proposal bill. The legislation will eventually include funding designed to boost the pay of child care workers who often leave the sector for better paying jobs.
On Wednesday, Elizabeth Frazer from the Connecticut Association for Human Services spoke on behalf of the Capitol Child Development Center across the street from the Capitol building. Frazer said that the program directors and staff are asking for help. Due to being understaffed and underfunded, she said that the center can only handle 18 students out of the 74 student capacity.
“Early care and education is not babysitting” she said, “It is a science, just like teaching chemistry.”
Wyatt Bosworth from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, CBIA, also spoke about the need for access to quality, affordable childcare. He said that lack of childcare is one of the factors behind Connecticut’s labor shortage.
“This is the greatest threat to Connecticut’s economic growth,” he said.
Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, and co-chair of the Children’s Committee, said that the path to economic recovery in the state is fixing the broken child care system. In order to do this, he said that the legislation proposed in February is a top priority during this session.
“This is not a partisan issue” he said, “we are working together to find a solution to address this.”
Even though it’s bipartisan, more funding will have to compete with other priorities during this year’s budget negotiations.
“We have to remind the caucus we have a spending cap, we have other priorities that we have to do,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said Wednesday, “but I think when we leave this year do I think we’ll do a good investment in child care? I do, yeah.”