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This week, Senate Republicans approved a bill (SF 2268) that would allow child care centers to increase the number of toddlers one child care worker is responsible for to:

  • one worker to seven 2-year-olds, and
  • one worker to ten 3-year-olds.

This was the statehouse Republicans’ answer to the childcare shortage Iowa families are facing.  Finding decent, affordable childcare wasn’t easy before the pandemic and it has gotten even harder since with more than 200 childcare closures across the state.

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One of the biggest problems with Iowa’s childcare is lousy wages and benefits for its workforce.  In fact, Iowa is ranked #1 in the Midwest for lowest wages for childcare workers.  So far this year, Governor Reynolds and statehouse Republicans have refused to put a dime of federal or state aid into a pay increase to help centers recruit and retain employees.

Giving childcare staff more kids to watch isn’t a safe or sustainable solution.

The childcare ratio refers to the number of adults who are on hand to teach and care for children who are playing, eating, sleeping and learning. Lower ratios mean children get more one-on-one attention to help them grow and develop. The Republican bill does the opposite, and that’s one of the reasons I opposed it.

At the very least, parents should be notified if a childcare provider decides to add more kids without adding more staff. That’s information every parent deserves to know, but Iowa’s Republican senators refused to add this common sense, pro-parent provision to the bill.

Packing more kids into a day care home or childcare center isn’t a solution. This approach certainly won’t encourage more Iowans to work in the childcare field. It also won’t give parents peace of mind that their kids are in a safe, nurturing environment when they leave for work each day.

Childcare providers and advocates have criticized the bill. They say it will add strain to an already stressful, low-paying job, while reducing the quality of care. Instead, they want to see their work professionalized.

If we want to fix the workforce crisis, we need to ensure families have access to safe, affordable childcare in every Iowa community. That means investing in high-quality facilities; ensuring providers have the resources to keep the doors open, as well as the pay and benefits to provide for their own families; and helping parents with the high cost of child care while they work or train for jobs.

Democrats pushed for middle-class tax cuts last week that would lower their income taxes; expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and gradually taper off eligibility as Iowans get better job opportunities; and increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.  Instead, Republicans opted to pass a tax bill that gave fat tax cuts to millionaires and corporations and skinny savings to Iowans who need it most.

SF 2268 is now under consideration in the Iowa House. Please ask your state Representative to stand against this bad idea that could endanger Iowa children. You can find their contact information at legis.iowa.gov/legislators/house.

Author: Janet Petersen

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