Waco, TX (FOX 44) – Dr. Amanda McElroy is the director of the Greater Waco Early Education Center. She says the funding during the pandemic was a lifesaver, but the economics side of childcare was broken long before then.
“This funding was granted because of COVID, but it actually was a band-aid for a much larger problem that the state of Texas has when it comes to funding for families that are on the workforce program and childcare,” said McElroy.
Two-thirds of kids in her daycare are on this workforce program, and a large majority of children in Texas are too.
“We need to be able to focus on our programs, providing the quality that gives parents that security and that safety when they’re at work, that their children are not just being babysat, but that they are receiving an education, that they’re receiving character training,” said McElroy.
She adds from a federal perspective, every state gets to choose to what extent they reimburse families through programs that help them with tuition. Many states have chosen to do a 100% reimbursement rate, but Texas only reimburses 75%.
“Without the funding of 100% of the tuition we charge, we’re not going to be able to invest in our staff,” said McElroy.
While most businesses affected by the pandemic bounced back, childcare did not. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 65,000 childcare jobs have been lost since February of 2020 — and Dr. McElroy knows exactly why. She says teachers in childcare centers are required to have specific degrees and certifications but are paid less than jobs that only require a high school degree.
“If we don’t have the funding that we need to attract that higher quality staff, we’re competing with gas stations at this point,” said McElroy.
According to the Century Foundation, more than 70,000 childcare programs could now close, causing about 3.2 million children to lose childcare.
“So the way to solve it isn’t in the short-term funding, it’s for Texas to choose to change that percentile at which they reimburse all centers for all of these children on these programs,” said McElroy.