Childcare worker sits with children

Childcare worker Debbie James-Dean sits with children at a Kids Are Us Learning Center in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2017.

(Photo: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

'Families' Needs Over Corporate Greed': US Childcare Providers, Parents Hold Day of Action

"If our leaders don't step up and legislate a solution to this crisis, we all will pay the price of an underfunded system," said organizers.

Flanked by her fellow childcare providers from Minnesota's Iron Range region at a press conference in St. Paul, Shawntel Gruba on Monday explained that the childcare center she runs had shut its doors for the day to "demonstrate how vitally important childcare is to our community."

"We are the workforce behind the workforce," said Gruba, CEO of Iron Range Tykes in Mountain Iron. "Without us, no one goes to work."

Gruba is one of more than 1,300 childcare providers across the U.S. who are participating in the National Day Without Childcare on Monday, organized by grassroots group Community Change Action and supported by other organizations including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), and the Main Street Alliance.

At the press conference before the local coalition boarded a bus to St. Paul for a rally, Gruba explained that 5 out of 7 childcare centers across the Iron Range are participating in the Day Without Childcare, which organizers said was taking place "with the support of the families" served by caregivers.

On the third annual Day Without Childcare, providers are calling for emergency federal childcare funding, nearly eight months after Republicans in Congress allowed billions of dollars in pandemic-era funding to expire.

"Childcare is expensive to provide, just like K-12 [education] is expensive to provide," said Gruba. "Our main source of income to meet those expenses is what families pay. The national and state recommendation for affordable childcare is that no family should pay more than 7% of their annual income for childcare. Families are paying two, three, to even four times more than that."

According to an analysis published by the NWLC earlier this month, in states where legislatures have not passed increased childcare allocations since last September, nearly a quarter of families are now unable to find or pay for care as providers have had to limit enrollment, shut down, or raise prices.

"If our leaders don't step up and legislate a solution to this crisis, we all will pay the price of an underfunded system," said Community Change Action.

Organizers are demanding an equitable childcare system built on racial and gender justice, thriving wages for childcare providers—whose median hourly wage in the U.S. is $14.60—and affordable and accessible childcare for all families.

Community Change Action called on the federal government, including Republican lawmakers, to finally prioritize "families' needs over corporate greed."

"Thanks to our decades of organizing, we made progress with the Democratic-led Congress and Biden administration to put our childcare system on a more secure footing," said Community Change Action co-president Dorian Warren. "Meanwhile, some members of the GOP are refusing to pass emergency funding for childcare, pushing our system to the brink of collapse once again. But time is running out on the game of politics they're playing with our lives. We will demand that they do their jobs and prioritize families. Our childcare system is in crisis—but our childcare movement is stronger than ever."

Warren said he and his wife, who rely on an early childhood education center, "organized the providers, parents, and children" at the facility "to walk out and participate in a mini march around the building" to mark the Day Without Childcare.

"As parents, we need to stand with early educators because our system is on the brink of collapse," said Warren. "Providers and families' livelihoods are hanging in the balance. We need a fully funded, 21st-century childcare system that allows everyone to thrive."

More than 80 events were planned around the country, including rallies, marches, and press conferences to highlight childcare providers' demand for more public funding to solve the childcare crisis, which, according to a report last year by ReadyNation, sucks $122 billion out of the nation's economy as parents are forced out of jobs.

Childcare providers and supporters marched through New York City to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's office, rallying against the omission of workforce funds in the state budget, while grassroots group SPACEs in Action organized lobby visits to Washington, D.C.'s City Council building. Teachers, children, and advocates rallied and lobbied for the restoration of $70 million to the D.C. Early Childhood Education Pay Equity Fund, which had helped bring childcare providers' salaries in line with that of public school teachers.

On Sunday night, the group also projected the message, "Childcare Is Everyone's Business" onto the building.

Community Change Action said the number of participants at dozens of public actions this year would set a record for the National Day Without Childcare.

"It is crucial that policymakers understand the vital role early learning centers play in our communities. We are not simply businesses: We are essential educational institutions deserving of adequate funding and support," said Terri Simms, who closed her childcare center in Dayton, Ohio for the day. "I urge you to stand with us in advocating for meaningful changes to our childcare system that reflects the true value of our services. Our survival depends on it, as does the future of the countless families who rely on us for quality early childhood education."

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