The Future of Childcare in Arizona Morning Scoop with Arizona Capitol Times
On Dec. 14, 2021, the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) sponsored a Morning Scoop conversation hosted by the Arizona Capitol Times. The virtual event featured leading experts on childcare in Arizona who discussed the challenges and barriers to childcare and the overall implications for many facets of life and the economy in Arizona.
Panelists included: Moderator Gary Grado, Managing Editor of the Arizona Capitol Times; Barbie Prinster, Executive Director of the Arizona Early Childhood Education Association; Liz Barker Alvarez, Chief Policy Advisor for First Things First; Angela Creedon, Arizona Public Affairs Manager with Intel Corporation; and Arizona State House Representative Lorenzo Sierra, a leading advocate for early childhood education in Arizona.
Dr. Sybil Francis, CFA’s President & CEO, opened the discussion by sharing the findings from CFA’s Gallup Arizona Survey showing what matters most to Arizonans. According to the Survey, both high- and low-income families face challenges with the cost and availability of childcare to the point that it has become a barrier to economic opportunity. Dr. Sybil Francis synthesized, “These are people that could be advancing their lives and contributing to our economy were it not for these barriers.”
According to Barbie Prinster, “Access and affordability are the two key ‘A’ words that we always talk about in childcare… We all know that childcare is really expensive. Sometimes more than our mortgage or rent, and especially if you have multiple children.”
While labor is a big factor that is driving up the costs of childcare, the panelists emphasized the importance of keeping expert professionals in childcare jobs. Liz Barker Alvarez discussed the importance of quality in early childhood education to support overall brain development during critical formative years. This directly links childcare to the long-term investment priorities for future generations to ensure the overall health of Arizona.
Although high-quality childcare is important, access to childcare is another barrier for Arizonans.
Childcare deserts are areas where there is little or no access to local childcare facilities. Liz Barker Alvarez pointed out that even before the pandemic, about 48% of Arizonans lived in a childcare desert. The panelists emphasized the other issues that the pandemic has brought to light, such as the loss of labor, closures of facilities, and overhead costs of running a childcare facility.
As the panelists discussed, the closure of one childcare facility can directly impact dozens of family’s abilities to work. To improve the outlook for Arizona families and our state’s economy, some businesses have enacted childcare benefits. We heard from one of the panelists, Angela Creedon on how Intel’s creative solutions to childcare have positively impacted and helped thousands of employees.
Federal and state investment in childcare can help pave the path for a brighter future in Arizona.
Finally, we heard from Representative Sierra, who discussed the monumental federal Build Back Better legislation as one of the biggest pieces in American history for our children. According to Sierra, if the bill passes, Build Back Better will provide families subsidies for childcare. He said this investment in our future will see a monetary return from the loss in revenue due to unemployment as a result of unaffordable childcare. Investing in future generations is a win for the Arizona economy and its infrastructure.
So, what can we do?
Here are a couple of ways to take action:
1. Become informed – download the full Gallup report, watch the Raising The Future: The Child Care Crisis documentary from PBS, and check out a few other relevant articles:
- How Child Care Became the Most Broken Business in America
- State leaders’ decade of neglect imperiled fragile child care system. The pandemic nearly made it collapse.
- Married to the job no more: Craving flexibility, parents are quitting to get it
2. Tell your legislators that you care about this issue and want it addressed
3. Connect with and inform others - Share this event discussion with 1-3 fellow Arizonans!
Click here to listen to the full discussion on YouTube.