Something to Ponder as Kids Head Back to School

This is an excerpt from a Bridge Magazine article by Nancy Derringer on June 30, 2016, "Michigan's low investment in childcare costs state and poor children alike"

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Helen Blank is the director of childcare and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington D.C.

The nonprofit center, which advocates for policies that promote greater opportunity for women and their families, tracks subsidized child care closely, seeing it as a key issue for working parents.

It isn’t just a nice-to-have benefit for the poor, Blank said, but a must-have benefit if low-income parents are to be able to fill new jobs being created in today’s economy, which especially in Michigan are disproportionately low-wage, with non-traditional, often erratic hours.

“Look at the needs of these moms,” said Blank. “I’m glad Michigan has a new investment in pre-K (for four-year-olds). That was good, but don’t exempt child care.”

(In 2013, the state expanded Great Start Readiness Program by $65 million a year, which allowed up to 30,000 lower-income 4-year-olds to attend quality preschool free of charge. Bridge reporting helped make the case for expanding the program to policymakers and the public.)

Blank said 22 percent of mothers of children under 3 in Michigan work in low-wage jobs and would generally qualify for child-care subsidies nationwide. Federal rules establish a broad framework for the program, but gives states considerable latitude in shaping it to their own states – and benefits vary widely.

“You have to understand what the value of this issue is to families and our economy,” Blank said. “(High-quality child care) helps children get a strong start to help them succeed, and it helps mothers work.”