A new report shows Iowa lags behind other states in providing childcare subsidies for low-income families. The project director for Every Child Counts, a new advocacy group, says money matters when it comes to quality childcare.Director Sheila Hansen says the group has a lot of research that shows the quality of education of the childcare providers is linked to good outcomes among the children, but many families can’t pay for the kind of childcare that provides that kind of outcomes. The report shows Iowa ranks 45th in the nation in the income cutoff level for families to qualify for a childcare subsidy. That means many low-income families don’t qualify and Hansen says they’re forced to use poor quality daycare. Iowa has a lot of families that are over the cutoff point, 140-percent of the poverty level — yet we’re third in the number of households with both parents, or the only parent, worked outside the home. That means high demand for childcare but not a lot of opportunity to get high wuality care. The group also tells about findings from the Midwest Childcare Research Consortium that of the childcare available, about 58-percent of it is considered “mediocre,” just 2-percent is considered good and 22-percent is ranked poor — so there’s a long way to go in getting kids into high-quality learning environments. Hansen says “if we put our money where our mouth is” and made childcare a pririty, we’d find the money for it. With that in mind, Every Child Counts is recommending the state spend an additional 90-million dollars on early childhood programs next year, with half of that going to childcare subsidies. People ask where the money will be found but she says if it’s a priority we should be able to find the money in the state somehow. Hansen says the governor and state lawmakers talk a lot about early childhood education so it’s time to put their money where their mouth is.
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