In Alaska, the cost of child care is a financial burden for most families. Married couples across the state can expect to pay 9 to 14 percent of their income on child care for their infant. It costs an average of $11,700 for center-based care for an infant per year—more than tuition at a public university. For an infant and a four-year-old, the cost for center-based care soars to an average of $22,424 per year.
And yet, most early childhood educators make poverty-level wages. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports that a child care professional earns a mean wage of $12.76 per hour. Across the country, many early educators rely on public assistance to make ends meet for their own families.
If child care is so unaffordable, but early educators get paid so little, what’s missing from the picture?
The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley and Child Care Aware® of America has teamed up to create a video that explains why.
High-quality early childhood education currently receives minimal public investment. But with just a few steps a week or a month, depending on your schedule, you can make a big difference in getting kids, families, and teachers the public funding they need.
Here’s how you can impact the lives of children and families:
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Talk about gaps in child care access or funding in Alaska. Respond to an article about lack of parity in child care salaries with an op-ed or letter to the editor. Share the latest research on child care and the child care workforce. Provide perspectives on legislation or candidates who should be focused on early education.
- Talk to friends and family and share on social media. Don’t be afraid to tell people about what you’ve learned. Whether it’s new research in the field, an action alert regarding state or federal legislation, or your own personal experience with child care, the story about affordable child care and a well-compensated workforce needs to be told.
- Join thread’s action center here, and sign on to petitions and action alerts from national and other state organizations fighting for the same goals. Subscribe to their newsletters so you’re always aware of early education issues on a national and state level.
- Attend city council meetings and public board meetings and hearings. Bring up issues of child care cost or availability in your area and the need for increased wages for providers in order to recruit and retain a well-qualified workforce.
- Show up to candidate town halls, roundtables, debates and other events. These can happen year-round, so be sure to track them. When you talk to candidates, ask about their plans to invest in early care and education including how they plan to help struggling families afford high-quality care and pay providers a living wage.
- Join children’s coalitions and organizational boards. Make sure your perspective (whether it’s as a provider or parent) is represented.
- Visit your senator and representatives’ district offices. Share updates about new initiatives in child care funding, data reports on child care/the status of the workforce, and news about child care in your community or state. See below for some sample questions.
Sample Questions to Ask Alaska’s Legislators
- Child care is unavailable and unaffordable for many families in Alaska with costs often exceeding the average price of public college tuition. Do you support legislation to address this crisis and help more families with their child care costs?
- Despite the high costs parents pay, child care teachers earn some of the lowest wages of anyone in the country. Will you support increased public investments to improve child care quality by increasing compensation and workplace supports for early educators, without increasing costs to families?
- Alaska’s funding for child care assistance is insufficient to cover all children eligible for subsidies and to support high-quality child care including adequate salaries for child care teachers. Would you support increasing funding in the state budget to expand access to all eligible children and to raise reimbursement rates so that they cover the true cost of quality care?
- Only 6 percent of low income workers, such as child care providers, receive paid family leave benefits. Would you support legislation to provide benefits such as health care and paid sick leave for child care providers?
- The United States spends a lower percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on early child care than almost any other industrialized nation. Would you support increased investments in early care and education to improve our system, increase pay for teachers, and make quality care more accessible and affordable for all families?
- What will you do to help more families afford high-quality child care?
- What will you do to ensure a living wage for child care providers?
- How will you make sure no family pays more than seven percent of their income to child care?
- How do you plan to make early care and education a priority in your administration?