On May 19, 2022, C@R Director of Education, Kim Kofron, provided testimony to the Texas House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development. The testimony shared data on child care closures:
“Texas has lost 21% of child care providers from March 2020 to September of 2021. Out of those closed programs during that time, 41% of the providers served infant and toddlers, and 79% of them were child care homes”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic until September 2021, Texas had an additional 242 communities become child care deserts.”
While highlighting that Texas Rising Star and TWC stabilization grants protected programs from closure:
Only 2.9% of TRS programs and 1.6% of programs that received stabilization grants closed from March 2020-September 2021.
In addition to closures, testimony focused on the staffing crisis facing the early childhood education workforce: “two-thirds of respondents reported experiencing a staffing shortage that affected their ability to serve families; 52% of those with staffing shortages were forced to serve fewer children while 37% had a longer waiting list.”
This staffing crisis can be attributed, at least in part, to the extremely low compensation providers and staff receive: the median annual wage for child care educators in Texas is approximately $20,300 with an average hourly wage of $10.15, resulting in 56% of educators qualifying themselves for at least one form of public assistance.
Going into the 88th session, we shared 5 recommendations to strengthen the early childhood education sector:
- Support and strengthen the child care workforce through compensation and education– If we want to not only keep our current child care workforce but build a pipeline for future educators to come into this field, we have to make sure it is one that has a viable livelihood.
- Remove barriers and incentivize partnerships between independent school districts and high-quality child care providers to maximize taxpayer dollars and to increase pre-kindergarten and child care capacity for working parents– One of the barriers to these public-private partnerships is the different eligibility criteria for the two programs. If we were able to align the eligibility and enrollment requirements for these two programs for children enrolled in a Pre-K Partnership setting, more families would have increased choices of what option is best for their family ensuring that their child is getting a high-quality Pre-K experience no matter the setting. Aligning eligibility increases efficiency and also maximizes taxpayer dollars.
- Improve access to quality child care across settings for working parents- Quality child care is important to all families and should not be determined by the type of program a family chooses. There is also a need to explore how to build consistency across the state within the varying Local Workforce Boards. Additional oversight or systems thinking is needed to ensure all providers are given equitable resources and supports.
- Increase reimbursement rates for child care providers providing higher quality care– Currently, if a provider charges less than the published reimbursement rate, they law requires them to be reimbursed at their lower rate. This hurts providers in low-income areas the most. Currently we set our rates base on a Market Rate Survey. The state survey’s providers from across the state to determine what providers on averaging are charging families in their areas. The issue with this is child care providers are unable to charge families what it truly costs to provide high quality care. The state should use an alternative methodology that looks at the true cost of care and determine reimbursement rates based on those calculations.
- Increase state investment in child care – It is time for us, as Texans, to start having the conversation around how do we invest in our own children, our own families to ensure they not only have a high-quality early learning experience but their parents are able to go to work and their early childhood educators are compensated and respected for their profession and expertise. Early childhood education is important for our children and for the Texas Economy to thrive.
Two Texas child care providers and a representative from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce joined Kim to testify.
Kishani Wolderbahn, Founder & CEO of KIDS Early Learning Centers, shared her struggles with finding and maintain staff at her multiple TRS 4-Star centers in the DFW area.
Latrice Jones, Teacher at Open Door Preschool, brought the committee to tears with her stories about the difficulty of caring for other families in addition to her own during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, Katie Ferrier from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce shared the economic burden Texas faced when parents don’t have access to quality care.
We would like to once again thank Chairwoman Button and the entire IRED committee for prioritizing child care and inviting us to testify at this important hearing. We look forward to continued collaboration to build a child care system that works for Texas.
We would also like to thank our partners Ready Nation, Texas Association for the Education of Young Children, Commit Partnership, United Way of Greater Austin, and the Dallas Early Education Alliance for their help in preparing speakers and testimony for the hearing.
To read the full testimony from CHILDREN AT RISK:
To read the sign-on letter submitted by CHILDREN AT RISK and other organizations across Texas in support of afforable, quality child care: