(WXYZ) — Another blow to childcare could lead to another devastating blow to the worker shortage.
Ann Arbor’s School District announced they are cutting before and after-school childcare programs. More than 1,000 parents signed a petition asking for the childcare programs to be restored, but it’s not happening.
Now there are concerns that other school districts could follow suit and pile onto an existing childcare crisis in the state of Michigan, leading to a devastating domino effect.
For budgetary purposes, the school year starts on July 1st, but districts don’t have a budget yet from the state.
While they haven’t announced canceling childcare, some may not be sure yet if they can afford to keep it.
Working parents can’t afford to lose it.
“For me on Tuesday and Thursday, when I have committees in Lansing and I have to be there at 9, but the bus doesn’t come until 8:45,” says Kelly Breen, a state representative based in Novi, an attorney and the mother of a fourth-grader. She faces challenges so many working parents do.
Fortunately, the Novi Community School District has a before and after-school childcare program that she relies on.
“If we didn’t have it, I would either be not attending committee meetings or I would have to beg a neighbor,” says Breen.
Now hundreds of families in Ann Arbor are facing that dilemma. What will they do with their children now that the Ann Arbor School District is eliminating before and after school childcare programs?
“The reality is that every district right now is struggling,” says Robert McCann with the K-12 Alliance.
“Our state legislature has not passed a budget yet for the upcoming school year,” says McCann adding,”there’s over $4 billion in federal funding designed to be in our classrooms right now that’s still stuck here in Lansing.”
He doesn’t know if other districts will eliminate childcare programs, but with budget and staffing uncertainties, it’s possible.
“It’s a challenge running a school district coming out of a pandemic without budget certainty coming from Lansing,” says McCann.
That could make finding childcare more challenging.
“It is a crisis and it’s getting worse,” says Breen.
According to the Afterschool Alliance, before the pandemic in Michigan for every child in an after-school program, 4 more were waiting to get in.
Courtesy Afterschool Alliance
The average weekly cost of afterschool childcare for Michigan families = $93
According to data from the Lending Tree and Center for American Progress, if your child is younger than school age and in a daycare center, your cost per child in Michigan has gone up 61 percent since before the pandemic.
“In Oakland County right now, the approximate cost for an infant and a toddler in full-time daycare is $25,000 a year,” says Breen. “Who can afford that?!”
A lot of parents can’t afford that.
According to Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management & Budget:
The male labor force recovered from its early pandemic loss, and even increased by 18,000 by December 2020.
Meanwhile, by December, 136,000 women had left the labor force and now that number is higher.
“We’re up to approximately 181,000 women have left the workforce entirely,” says Cheryl Bergman, CEO of the Michigan Women’s Commission.
Many cited the lack of affordable, accessible child care as the reason for leaving.
That number could continue to climb if other school districts follow Ann Arbor’s lead and eliminate before and after-school childcare programs.
“Childcare is an economic issue. It is keeping our workforce at home or not returning to work. We are at a crisis level,” says Bergman.
This crisis started before the pandemic, but now it has gotten worse and gotten the attention of policy makers and business leaders.
The Women’s Commission also plans to launch an innovative pilot program, called MI Tri Share Child Care.
“The idea is that the employer pays a third of the childcare, the employee pays a third of the childcare, and the state of Michigan pays a third of the childcare,” says Bergman.
It’s being piloted in three regions of the state.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan workgroup in Lansing has been focused on creating legislative solutions to the childcare crisis.
They have a package of bills ready to introduce on Tuesday.
“Our first initial focus is going to be helping in-home providers function better. The bill that I have, is to create family childcare networks,” says Breen. This legislation is only a first step, she says, and it has many steps to go.
Until budgets are approved by the state, she suggests employers chip in.
“If you want to motivate people to get to work, offer a tri-share program or offer on-site daycare if that’s at all possible,” says Breen.