For the last year I’ve been talking to parents and caregivers of young kids in every corner of our state and you know what everyone had in common? That the VPK (Voluntary Preschool Program) and child care system in our state doesn’t work for families. That’s the bad news. The good news is the new bill in the Florida legislature that could help change that.
Why this bill? Why now? Because moms and parents in Florida like YOU said you needed it. Plain and simple.
Representative Angie Nixon and Senator Bobby Powell filed House Bill 1197 and Senate Bill 1288, the Early Child Care Universal Voucher Program, to improve access to early childhood programs and to help create a pathway to reasonable parent copayment fees based on a sliding scale according to family income (with some parents paying nothing) and to expand the existing Voluntary Preschool Program (VPK). This bill would also increase the quality of care by addressing workforce wages to ensure that the people taking care of our kiddos can also care for their own.
If passed this program would provide much needed relief for families and not a moment too late.
Last fall, America went over the federal child care fiscal cliff, as child care stabilization funding expired and Florida is on track to see over 2 thousand child care programs close and over 2 hundred thousand children lose their child care slots.
The Kids Count study found that 13% of children birth to age five in Florida lived in families in which someone quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care. Not to mention that this cost is steep even when you can find it. A study by Child Care Aware of America found that infant child care costs in Florida exceeded college tuition. Yes, you read that right. That means that in Florida it costs more to send your baby to child care than to college.
If parents and caregivers can’t work to cover basic household expenses, that hurts kids, families, and our economy.
The Florida Policy Institute estimated that failings of the child care market could cost Florida an estimated $6.6 billion in lost earnings, which comes to 5% of the nation’s lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. And while families and the economy are feeling the pressure, so are early educators who are one of the lowest paid industries in the country despite doing the most important work of caring for children. Child care as it is now isn’t working for anyone.
It’s time to take action on child care to ensure Florida families, communities, businesses, and our state’s economy thrive.