Ky. must pay for child care now

Steve Magre
Steve Magre

Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program has been in place since 1990. Similar programs in surrounding states have much higher rate schedules than Kentucky’s.

The program has three components: state licensing of child-care centers to assure high quality; a contract with the parent(s) to make sure the adult is employed and thus needs the service, and funding level choice.

Leaders must understand that the amount of funding committed to CCAP will either assure job opportunities for thousands of young parents living in Kentucky or assure they will not be employed.

In its closing days, the Beshear administration increased reimbursement to child-care centers by $1 a day per child. On the surface, this move is in the right direction.

But inexplicably, the $15 million was tied to a non-binding policy. Officials directed that the funds be spent in equal portions over the next 30 months and not over the next six months of this budget year. Any eighth-grade civics student may ask: “Can an administration bind spending in future state budgets?” The answer is no.

Until this announcement there had been no rate increase during the Beshear administration. Zilch in eight years.

Two years ago, child-care assistance was defunded and shut down, and then just as quickly resurrected. The new CCAP had a clear goal of serving fewer impoverished children.

Its announced target was to be back to 41,000 children by June 2015. Only 24,000 children are in the program today. There are a lot of reasons for this reduction, but one main reason is the reimbursement rate is so low that qualified child-care centers simply can no longer participate. In recent years hundreds of child-care centers have closed. This $1 per day increase for each child remaining in the program will not change this pattern.

The one accurate statement in the state’s news release was the amount available to be spent right now. Child Care Advocates of Kentucky believes that $15 million is the right number. The outgoing administration bypassed the chance for a meaningful rate increase by trying to dictate that only $3 million, or 20 percent, be spent over the next six months. This shell game is allowing $12 million to be banked to the rainy day account. Sadly this is being done on the backs of impoverished children and their families, and they are the ones out in the rain.

We have hope in Gov. Matt Bevin and his high priority on workforce development. We are confident that he and his staff will have the business savvy to at least listen and respect the voices of child-care center owners. We trust that this new administration will run the numbers and come to understand how important a fully supported and funded Child Care Assistance Program can become. It is the key that allows young adults to gain employment. These parents go to work knowing their children are in safe harbor and learning. Without the program the parents would not be employable, and most, if not all, would receive state benefits.

Our organization came together a few years ago to make certain the business aspects of our industry were shared with Frankfort leaders.

A lot is at stake for Kentucky’s impoverished children and parents. It is so important that those in Frankfort get the Child Care Assistance Program righted once and for all. Getting this accomplished will depend foremost on the governor. Child Care Advocates of Kentucky is poised to help in any way we can.

Steve Magre is the director of Child Care Advocates of Kentucky.