Let’s lead the way, families deserve better
Rebecca Noecker City Council Member, Ward 2
Open any newspaper or ask any parent, employer, or childcare provider and you’ll hear the same thing: childcare is at a crisis point.
Here in St. Paul and throughout the state, early childhood education is both unaffordable and hard to find. Minnesota is the fourth most expensive state for childcare; in the metro area, the average cost of year-round, full-day care for preschoolers in a childcare center is $14,716 a year, according to data from Child Care Aware. This makes paying for childcare a struggle for all families and nearly impossible for more than 4,600 St. Paul preschoolers who live below the Federal Poverty Line.
Our children deserve better. More than 90% of brain development happens before age 5, meaning that children who aren’t receiving quality early learning are missing out on developing important academic, social, and emotional skills. Research shows that children who start kindergarten behind their peers academically are more likely to stay behind for the rest of their school years. And these gaps can last a lifetime, particularly for children from low-income families.
Families deserve better, too, particularly mothers. Pew Charitable Trust data show that nationwide one million more women than men left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part due to lack of childcare. These forced labor exits were disproportionately borne by women of color. American businesses lose around $57 billion annually due to childcare challenges, as parents reduce hours and take time off to care for children.
Current solutions aren’t working. State scholarships and child care assistance are only available for a fraction of St. Paul families and don’t cover the cost of a full year of care. And decades of advocacy for additional funding from the Legislature have so far failed to deal with the crisis.
I’ve been impressed by the dozens of other cities—from San Antonio to St. Louis, Denver to Dayton—that have established local early learning funds, not just to support their families but also to boost their economies. Research has demonstrated a $16 return on every $1 invested in early learning, and there are proven positive effects on economic, educational, and health outcomes not only for children in high-quality early learning programs but even for their children.
If we’re serious about equity, economic growth, and creating a caring community, we have a responsibility to make childcare affordable and accessible for every family in St. Paul.
Our kids are looking to us for action. Let’s lead the way.