Hello EEC families -
First I want to say thank you. We are nearing the end of our school year, the first “normal” year since COVID-19. It’s been anything but normal, and childcare throughout the state and country is on the brink of collapse. EEC has had its hiccups, continues to have its hiccups and will continue to have hiccups, because the childcare market is one that cannot be sustained until normal market settings.
We do our best to keep things running with consistency. Unfortunately we are facing many barriers to do so. We cannot burn out our staff, we cannot deny vacations, we cannot avoid illness. We do everything we can to avoid service changes or closures of classrooms. We are fully staffed. We are always looking for afternoon assistants (1:30-5:30) and substitutes.
Not all childcare centers or places serving children under Kindergarten need to be licensed - at least currently. This is changing. However, because of this it often seems some schools have the ability to charge less. Not having basic health and safety regulations allows schools and centers to have double the number of children we do, only one teacher, and no requirements on background checks or professional development.
We have NO wiggle room on the minimum number of staff we need daily to keep operations consistent. We cannot operate without that staff. For more than a year we have been operating with extra staff on hand, and it’s still not enough. It’s not just “hire more people” as more people cost a lot more money - and again we are fully staffed.
Recently there have been several Federal, State, and Department of Education policies that have substantially increased our cost of doing business. These policies also have made hiring exponentially harder. We are incredibly lucky to have the staff that we have.
Just to give some examples of policy changes:
Increasing minimum wage: While we have never paid minimum wage, it increases the competition for other jobs that don’t have the same level of qualifications or stress. This means that tuition prices must increase when this happens without more state support.
Federal statute stipulates that we do background checks (absolutely agree!). The old policy in Delaware was that background checks be completed prior to a start date, but someone could start working fully supervised prior to receiving an eligibility letter. The Federal requirements now mandate that the eligibility letter be received prior to a start date. Unfortunately this increases the hiring process by up to 30 days - which if we need to hire it usually takes 6-10 weeks from start to finish.
State reimbursement rate for Purchase of Care is historically underfunded, both by choice and by policy. By the state not paying based on the cost of care for centers who provide care for low income families, dollars that are supposed to go to all STARS providers for quality improvement can only go to those serving low income families and not all providers. These dollars would absolutely impact our cost of doing business and subsidize quality measures that we have in place.
What is happening to support early education and child care?
There are two bills that are currently in the Senate finance committee. SB 58 and SB 59 would eliminate/reduce parent co-pays for families living at less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The second would create a statewide subsidy rate for the Purchase of Care Program. These two programs would allow the Department of Education to expand and increase the amount of Quality Improvement Funds that can go to providers - such as EEC. This funding is not insignificant and would have an impact on our operational budget.
The Governor and the Senate have said adequately funding early education is a priority. Unfortunately the current programs and policies continue to increase costs for providers without also funding those programs and policies adequately. We have also heard that they don’t hear enough from families on what the current impact rising costs of,and lack of access to, childcare has on families. So your voice really does matter.
So what can you do?
Email your legislators. Tell them how having access to childcare impacts your family, what you would do without childcare, and the financial impact paying for childcare has on you and your family. The other way to make your voice heard is joining this advocacy campaign. There will also be flyers up next week with QR codes to make it even easier.
The second thing you can do is either join or donate to deaeyc. deaeyc is the state affiliate of naeyc and the only advocacy group for birth-8 early care and education that supports children, families, and providers. The larger the group of supporters and the louder the voice, the larger the impact.
The workforce here at EEC is just one example of the workforce behind the workforce. Delaware doesn’t work without childcare.
As always, thank you for your continued support. Also, thank our teachers. Without them, EEC would just be a building.