Child Care Scarcity Has Very Real Consequences For Working Families

January 3, 20177:00 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered


One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, “Who’s going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?”

Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care.

Searching far and wide, finding little

Megan Carpenter, a new mother who lives in Alexandria, Va., knows well the feeling of desperation that can come with the search for safe, quality infant care.

She had a hard deadline — 16 weeks after her baby was born her maternity leave would end and she would have to return to her job at a nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income women. So she and her husband started looking for child care early, only a few months into her pregnancy.

“At our first few interviews we were asking a lot of questions and were really trying to get a feel for the place,” Carpenter recalls. “And by place 10 or 11, our only question was, ‘Do you have a spot?’ ”

The answer to that question, time and again, was “no.” That meant getting on a lot of waitlists — and paying a hefty, nonrefundable waitlist fee each time.

“There were a lot of places that were totally willing to take our $100 or $200 waitlist fee,” Carpenter says. “We spent over $1,000 in waitlist fees — many of which I never heard from again.”

By the time baby Cora arrived, the couple still had no prospects.



Editorial: Coordinating ideas around Minnesota’s early-childhood work

While research confirms the value of early- childhood advocates’ efforts, a hometown lawmaker observed that their work wasn’t necessarily in sync.

When he arrived at the Minnesota Capitol after his election in 2014, Rep. Dave Pinto — long interested in the issue — expected to find clarity about an agenda and direction, based on growing consensus about the value of public investment in early education.

Instead, there were a number of agendas, the St. Paul Democrat told us.

He found that, with varied groups working on such efforts, “often they’re parallel, often they overlap, sometimes they may conflict.”

That makes it hard for legislators, who might agree in general on the matter, Pinto told us, to “cut through the clutter” and figure out “where do we go, where do we focus our efforts, what do we do?”

In an effort that uses what he describes as a lawmaker’s leverage to “convene,” Pinto helped bring them together via a quarterly Prenatal-to-Three Policy Forum series that began last summer. The next such session will be Jan. 6 at the University of St. Thomas.


How Investing In Preschool Beats The Stock Market, Hands Down

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you’d be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

But there’s surprisingly little research on its impact over time. This paper helps change that. Heckman and his co-authors examine the many ways in which these high-quality programs helped participants thrive throughout life.

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We learned a lot in 2016 about how preschool can help kids

Claudio Sanchez · ·

One of the most controversial questions in education has been whether preschool — and specifically Head Start — helps kids succeed as they move through elementary school.

Critics have long noted, and research has supported, that the benefits of Head Start fade in a few years. It’s an important question for an $8 billion federal program that provides support for nearly a million low-income children and their families.

This year brought several new studies, however, that found that — when done right — Head Start and other programs can give low-income students lasting benefits. It’s not only through elementary school: At least one study we wrote about found the benefits of preschool paying off for individuals, and society, into adult life.

All this research, however, was no blanket endorsement. Some of this year’s findings reinforced earlier studies showing the uneven quality of Head Start programs around the country.

And so the lessons from 2016 seem to reinforce the emphasis — by President Obama and others — on quality.

One of the most closely watched attempts in the country to provide universal, high-quality preschool has been in Oklahoma. In 1998, the state became one of only two states to offer universal preschool.

Today, the vast majority of Oklahoma’s programs are in public schools. The rest are run by child care centers or Head Start.

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Star Tribune: Keep child care costs affordable for all Minnesotans


Editorial Board, Star Tribune

January, 22, 2016

Minnesota child care tends to be good — and expensive. That means that high-quality child care and preschool are also in short supply, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and sparsely populated portions of the state.

In previous years, recognition that those circumstances spell trouble for the state’s economy as well as for families and children has been spotty at the Legislature. Fortunately, that’s changing. Last week, House Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt appointed a “select committee on affordable child care” and announced that it would conduct statewide hearings in February to probe the problem and consider remedies. It’s to be headed by a former child care provider, Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria.

We’ll take that as reason for hope that a better day may be dawning for Minnesotans burdened by child care costs that often exceed the cost of public college tuition — and that bipartisan cooperation might help make it so.

Last session, Republicans and DFLers came together on a strategy to both offer more need-based scholarships for high-quality preschool and enable more school districts to become preschool providers. This should be the year when a similar coalition emerges to address the everyday, full-day needs of the young children of working parents…

Star Tribune: A voice of higher ed — Robert Bruininks — is pretty keen on early ed


Lori Sturdevant, Star Tribune

January 22, 2016

“I really hope they put some additional money into early education,” Bruininks said. “They’ve simply got to keep investing in the early years.”

Bruininks’ zeal for the topic is good news. He could be just the thing the early ed rivals of 2015 need to become early ed allies in 2016 — a sage, nonpartisan policy broker with decades of educational expertise to bring to bear. When he’s back in the cold in a few weeks, he could be an important advocate for early education policies that help Minnesota continue to be the Brainpower State as its population evolves.

Before he was president of the University of Minnesota, Bruininks was a university professor of educational psychology and dean of the College of Education and Human Development. While he was president from 2002 to 2011, he trucked and tangled with governors and legislators and gained appreciation for their power to shape this state.

That background made Bruininks a keen observer of one of the big tussles of the 2015 legislative session. This one wasn’t DFL vs. Republican or metro vs. rural. It was preschool scholarships for needy children vs. school-based preschool for every 4-year-old in the state…


Minnesota kindergartners ease into first grade after a year with all-day kindergarten


Britta Arendt, Grand Rapids Herald-Review
September 9, 2015

Of the more than 847,000 students heading back to school across Minnesota this fall, approximately 58,800 are kindergartners – 99.6 percent of whom are attending school all-day, free of charge.

Before implementation of state legislation passed in 2014, 54 percent of Minnesota children had access to all-day kindergarten, according to information released by the Minnesota Department of Education.

“Last year was the first time we provided Minnesota families with access to free, all-day kindergarten, and the response was overwhelming,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “More children were enrolled in kindergarten than we projected, showing how truly necessary and important this investment was for Minnesotans. By offering kindergarten to every child, at no cost, we are breaking down barriers of access and ensuring every child has a strong foundation that will propel them forward for success in the future. Each year, as more students are able to benefit from this investment, I know we will see achievement gaps continue to close throughout Minnesota.”



Hear From Margaret

MinneMinds Budget Deal Statement – Education Budget A Win For Families, Minnesota


Education Budget A Win For Families, Minnesota

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – June 5, 2015 – Today, Frank Forsberg, chair of the MinneMinds Coalition, made the following statement regarding the 2015 special session education finance bill:

“The MinneMinds coalition congratulates state leaders on crafting a final education budget that supports our youngest learners.


Hear From Jonathan