Juneau is celebrating a 21% increase in licensed child care spaces over the past year. Since July 2015, 81 new child care spaces have been created, allowing more families to join the workforce and giving more children access to quality early care & learning.
Since the Juneau Bureau started funding the Hiring, Educating, and Retaining Teaching Staff (HEARTS) Initiative in 2012, the city has seen a number of positive changes. The average child care wage has increased by 32%, turnover among child care workers has declined by 52%, and the ratio of child care workers with minimum credentials has increased from one out of six to one out of four for a net gain in qualified teachers.
The HEARTS Initiative, along with child care-friendly zoning changes and thread supports such as the $1,000 start up mini-grants, are all keys to turning around a five-year decline.
However, despite great efforts from Juneau’s early care & learning community, there is still a great deal of work to do. Since 2010, the number of children below kindergarten age grew by 4% in Juneau.
In Juneau, there are less than 2 child care spaces for every 10 children under kindergarten age.
During the last six years, the total capacity of child care decreased by 17% overall (from 575 spaces to 476 spaces), while the total number of child care workers decreased by 30% (from 141 workers to 99). There is currently only one child care spaces for every 5.2 kids in Juneau’s pre-kindergarten population – down from one for every 4 kids in 2010.
The solution may lie with increased public funding and support. While research shows that investment in early care & learning pays high dividends, in Juneau the local public contribution to education increases 500 fold once a Juneau child enters kindergarten, rising from $37 per child to $18,357.