Q. What are the problems with providing adequate child care these days?
A. The main barrier to the provision of adequate child care and early childhood education is the fact that parents cannot afford to pay the increased tuition required for quality programs and greater capacity.
Child care is the second highest monthly expense for young families and with the changing demographics in our community and nationwide, more and more households need two incomes and other benefits, like health insurance that employment provides. In addition, more women are needed in the workforce now than had been the case in the past.
With program revenues based on the parents' ability to pay, child care providers have a difficult time recruiting, training and keeping qualified teachers.
Currently, someone can go to work at a fast food restaurant in Steamboat Springs and make as much as an early childhood teacher does.
Q. Why do you feel early childhood education between birth and kindergarten is so important?
A. Because learning begins at birth. Research has shown that infants achieve 80% of their total lifetime brain development by age one and children form lifetime values and morals by age six.
Quality child care and early childhood education has been proven to have long term effects on school achievement and social adjustment. The young children we are nurturing and teaching today are the leaders of the future.
Their education is no less important than kindergarten through 12th grade or higher education.
Q. How has the recently received grant money and proceeds from Snowball 2001 been or will it be used?
A. The proceeds from the Snowball and grant monies recently received by First Impressions will be distributed to child care and early childhood education programs county-wide as a per pupil allotment. Each program will be evaluated by a team of child care professionals and First Impressions Board members to assure quality programming and a committment to continuous improvement.
Q. Currently, parents pay about $28 a day for child care. Research from First Impressions suggests that the average cost to pay a child care provider with proper wages and benefits is between $40 and $45. What can be done to fill the gap between wages and proper child care?
A. The gap between what parents can afford to pay and what it would cost to provide teachers with appropriate wages, training, and tools is conservatively estimated to be $17 per day per child.
In order to close that gap, a dedicated community funding source is needed.
Although First Impressions has been successful in receiving grants to temporarily help close the gap, grant funding is not adequate and it cannot be relied upon for the long term.
Q. I understand that First Impressions is spearheading a motion to get a half cent of sales tax placed on the ballot. What would that half cent sales tax do for early childhood education?
A. The half cent city sales tax that First Impressions is proposing to the Steamboat Springs City Council on May 8 would provide the public revenue to close the gap between our parents' ability to pay for child care and early childhood education and the amount needed to provide additional capacity and ensure quality care and education.
It would be administered and distributed in a process similar to the one First Impressions is using to allocate the proceeds from the Snowball and a recent state grant.
With the revenue from the half cent sales tax, early childhood programs in Routt County could provide affordable, quality care and education to children from birth to five.
Parents would maintain their right to choose the child care and early childhood education that fits their needs.