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'Connecticut can do this': New report outlines ways to make childcare more accessible and affordable

Early education teachers leading preschool age children (3-4 yrs) in play and games activities,
Billy Hustace / Getty Images
Corbis Documentary RF
Early education teachers leading preschool age children (3-4 yrs) in play and games activities,

A new state report lays out an ambitious plan for improving the child care system in Connecticut.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Care released the report on Friday, outlining a five-year strategic plan meant to, among other things, “address the critical workforce needs in early childhood education, while expanding access and affordability for our families,” the governor said in a foreword.

The report comes as hundreds of millions in federal COVID-19 relief dollars for supporting the state’s child care system have expired. Connecticut has nearly 182,000 children under the age of 5, roughly three-quarters of whom have all parents actively participating in the workforce, according to the report.

The panel, led by Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye, wrote in the report that the plan zeroes in on inequities in the existing child care system.

“I believe every baby born in Connecticut and every young child who moves here with their families deserves a high-quality early childhood education,” Bye wrote in a foreword. “This work we have done together is social justice work. The inequities for child care educators and for parents are grounded in gender and racial inequities.”

The panel’s report notes challenges faced by both care workers and families. It highlights a turnover rate as high as 40% annually for those in the industry, along with the fact that they make 23% less on average than workers in comparable industries. One out of every five parents, according to the report, has quit or been fired from a job because of lack of child care.

“Early childhood educators are underpaid and they work super hard,” Bye said Monday. “It’s really a great profession, having spent 40 years in it, but I think it’s undervalued – as much of the work that mostly women do is – in this culture.”The panel’s report made economic arguments, too, touting estimates that investments into early childhood education and child care can bring up to a 13% return on investment and that lack of infant and toddler care alone cost the state $1.5 billion annually.

Some advocates reacted to the report with guarded optimism.

Courtney Parkerson, early childhood advocate and director at nonprofit advocacy group The Connecticut Project, said she was “encouraged” by much of the report.

“A lack of resources is really at the root of Connecticut’s current child care crisis, so the state must now put its money where its mouth is by securing and sustaining the investment that we need to make sure that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education,” Parkerson said Monday.

“Connecticut is a very expensive state, and so costs like child care and housing are even more expensive here than they are in other states,” Parkerson said. “Ensuring that we create a system so that low-income and vulnerable families can access high quality, affordable early education and child care is so critical in Connecticut.”

A spokesperson for advocacy group Child Care for Connecticut’s Future said in an email that while the plan has several good components, the state should be spending far more.“The [panel] and Lamont [are] making a $140-150 million investment when they should probably spend $500 million more,” the group said.

Bye said she’s confident in Connecticut’s ability to follow through on the promises of the panel’s plan.

“I think Connecticut can do this,” Bye said. “I think we have the will.”

“What this report does is it lays out a vision, and we will be working with our federal partners, we’ll be working with the state legislature, philanthropy and business to work to make it come true,” Bye said.

The Blue Ribbon Panel convened for the first time in April following its creation via an executive order by the governor. "I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again,” Lamont said at the time. “I want Connecticut to be the most family-friendly state in the country.”

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.