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Poll shows support from Connecticut voters to expand early child care funding

Some corporations are opening up their doors to providing more support for child care.
Evgeniia Siiankovskaia
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Connecticut voters support increasing state funding of early childhood care and education.

A recent survey of Connecticut voters found support for increasing state funding of early childhood care and education.

Many of the 940 Connecticut voters surveyed from Sept. 23 to October said they were unable to afford quality care and education for children under five — even among families that earn more than $100,000 a year.

Allyx Schiavone, co-chair of the advocacy group Child Care for Connecticut's Future, which commissioned the survey, said most voters support capping child care expenses at 7% of household income. But the share of income families actually spends on child care is at least three times higher than that — and it’s growing.

“To give you an idea of the vast disconnect between where we are right now and the 7% household income cap, a family with one infant toddler has to have an annual income of $315,000 to cover the true costs of high quality care,” Schiavone said.

Schiavone urged the state General Assembly to help families avoid paying more out of pocket for child care.

The advocacy group also sounded the alarm for the lack of early childhood educators in the state. About 10% of the workforce in the state haven't returned since the pandemic in Connecticut. The group blamed early childhood educators for being paid less than other teachers. The average wage is over $13 per hour.

Due to low pay, Schiavone said many positions in the early child care field remain unfilled, leaving many classrooms empty without a teacher to oversee kids. She said parents who rely on child care services are left to watch their children while they work at their day jobs.

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Some parents who responded to the survey said they may have to abandon their jobs if child care services cannot be found. The survey found that 61% of mothers with children aged 12 or below feel that caring for their children is holding back their career to some extent.

62%t of respondents want increased eligibility for government subsidized early care and education — even if it means shifting funds from the state budget from other projects. 69% of respondents said the state should entirely cover early care and education costs for families making less than $75,000 annually.

Businesses also saw the negative effects of lack of child care. 81% of so-called “business decision makers” who took part in the survey said their companies reported that workers had to leave early to pick up their children from other caregivers or had to stay home or quit their jobs to take care of their children due to the lack of early child care options.

Nichelle Waddell, the owner of Watch Me Grow Daycare in Stamford, said she is concerned about staffing shortages.

“Child care educators need to make a livable wage,” said Waddell, who joined Child Care for Connecticut’s Future on Tuesday for the release of the survey. “We should make the same as teachers, school teachers. We are financially struggling and I think the thought should be where will all of the infants and children go if our businesses fail?”

About 75% of respondents support the state increasing funding of early childhood educators to be paid at least the same as public school teachers in Connecticut.

Merrill Gay, executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said the coalition has no specific dollar amount or policy in mind, but they are calling on the state General Assembly to better fund early child care in the state.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.