Policy Agenda & ProgressLocal Child Care Innovations
Community and business leaders across Wisconsin are coming together to make meaningful local improvements to child care access and affordability while advocacy for systemic change and significant state investment continues. The stories highlighted are a handful of the many efforts taking place across the state as child care continues to present significant challenges for early childhood educators, parents, businesses, and community leaders.
The Amery area has been on a long child care journey, prompted by a desire to boost school district enrollment and provide additional local child care options. In 2015, the school district began using and continues to use Fund 80 dollars to supplement the ongoing operations of The Clubhouse child care program. The result is a “diapers to diplomas” philosophy of education, starting with a foundation of strong early care and education. What started as a financial decision to slow and stop enrollment out of the district is now a key community program fostering the strong development of young children and allows many more parents to work through support of a local child care option.
The owner of the Antigo Child Care Center and leaders in Antigo are working together to create a unique approach that will aim to assist the local child care center, employers, and employees through tiered membership. Employers will sign annual contracts to provide monthly base payments to the Antigo Child Care Center, employers will be guaranteed a certain number of slots, and employees will receive discounted tuition based on their tier level. The effort developed out of many community conversations, including those with local economic development officials, as they, along with several community partners, work to solve the “trilemma of child care” in the Antigo area.
A journey that began as a simple conversation between two CEOs in 2018 has grown into a broad community child care nonprofit, Jackson County Child Care Network. Earliest conversations of the local child care taskforce centered on the business and economic implications of child care challenges, leading to several initiatives, including a productivity loss study, community surveys, and partnering with Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network. The taskforce applied for American Rescue Plan Act funding from Jackson County and were able to allocate more than $105,000 of local federal relief funding for early childhood workforce stipends and child care start-up grants. The effort now continues to work toward a goal of creating an additional 500 child care slots. For its work, the Network was named a 2022 recipient of a Wisconsin Economic Development Association Community and Economic Development Award.
The Milwaukee Succeeds-led MKE ECE Coalition began as a group of partners and community leaders working to support Milwaukee’s early childhood sector early in the pandemic, including distributing PPE and cleaning supplies and raising philanthropic funds for flexible stabilization grants to more than 440 providers in predominantly Black and Brown communities. Today, the Coalition is comprised of home- and center-based providers, organizations that support early educators and families, and representatives of government, philanthropy, physical and mental health, and K-12 and higher education and is focused on expanding access to quality, affordable ECE for Milwaukee families. The Coalition successfully advocated for City of Milwaukee to invest $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars into wage stipends for early educators and efforts to strengthen and diversify pathways into the workforce with a focus on young men of color. It secured a $5 million state Workforce Innovation Grant and has provided hundreds of early educators and families with free mental health trainings and resources. The Coalition conducts research and analysis of needs and opportunities in Milwaukee’s ECE sector, including on the demographics, educational attainment, and career aspirations of Milwaukee’s ECE workforce and a first-of-its-kind provider survey on the impact of the Child Care Counts program.