Background: Working parents depend on accessible child care to participate in the workforce and provide income for their families. And whereas 80% of the brain develops by age 3, child care serves as a vital opportunity for early learning; waiting until pre-kindergarten to support young children’s educational needs comes far too late. Effective early care and education is like a 4-legged stool; it requires affordability, accessibility, high-quality, and a supported workforce. Yet 24 percent of Iowans live in a child care desert, where there are too few or no providers in their area. The cost of both center-based and family child care out of reach for many families, yet eligibility to receive child care assistance from the state is the one of the lowest in the nation at 145 percent of FPL. Iowa’s providers are also struggling to make ends meet and attract professionals to the field, with an average annual income of $20,410, and are not reimbursed at the current market rate for enrolling children with assistance benefits.
How will you support affordable child care and access to programs, promote the importance of quality, and address child care workforce needs?