Wisconsin’s push to improve child care through better-trained workers affects everyone involved, including children, who make greater cognitive and social leaps with well-educated teachers, research shows.
Other ramifications — and questions yet unanswered:
Workers: Non-traditional students are flooding weekend, evening and online classes at technical colleges across the state. Enrollment in child care classes at Madison Area Technical College has quadrupled in three years. “It’s changing the face of our student population,” said Karen Natoli, a longtime MATC teacher in early childhood education. But will there be a financial payoff to workers in this notoriously low-paying profession? “Staff is usually about 70 percent of the cost of running a child care center,” said Dave Edie, one of the foremost child care experts in Wisconsin. “The big issue is whether centers are going to have enough revenue to attract and retain quality staff.”
Child care centers: Preliminary research shows employee turnover, a huge problem in child care, goes down by as much as 50 percent when workers gain credit-based training. “They enjoy their work more because they have the skills to do the job better,” said Autumn Gehri, a program director with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association. But will these better-educated workers stick with child care long-term?
Parents: Child care costs already are draining many family pocketbooks. The average Wisconsin family spends about $10,000 a year for child care for a 4-year-old, according to Child Care Aware of America. Can parents afford to pay for a more highly skilled workforce? “If you want better-educated teachers, you’re going to have to pay for it somewhere,” said Jaime Steindorf, who owns centers in Columbus and Rio. She has invested about $7,000 over the past two years in credit-based education for herself and her employees. She upped her prices 18 months ago and likely will need to again soon, she said. “Education is an added cost that wasn’t there before,” she said.