Report: Lack of kid care ends in $479M loss for Idaho’s economic system. These teams hope to assist.
In early 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report on the economic impact of disruptions in access to childcare in four states. Idaho was one of them.
The report found that childcare-related issues from absenteeism and employee turnover result in an estimated $ 479 million annual loss to the Idaho economy.
Armed with the findings of this national report, the leaders of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children joined forces to address the issue in Idaho.
“Our plan was to come back and give a big boost with businesses,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. “And of course, COVID hit the second we got back.”
Oppenheimer has worked with Alex LaBeau, President of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, on this issue for several years. Although his association represents many companies, childcare providers are not one of those partners and he wanted to work with someone who had a better understanding of the industry.
“I would put (Oppenheimer) at the top of the list of someone who understands the problem,” LaBeau said. “… We have decided that there is likely an opportunity for us to work together and move this issue in a way that is unique to Idaho.”
Lack of quality childcare is a barrier to employment, IACI finds
Labor availability is a constant concern for businesses of all sizes in Idaho, LaBeau said, especially since the state has a consistently low unemployment rate. And when the association conducted a nationwide survey to find out what factors pose barriers to employment, the main obstacle was the cost and lack of quality childcare in Idaho.
“There is a huge difference between putting up a fence in your yard and letting kids run around and getting quality care,” he said.
LaBeau and Oppenheimer have worked to promote the idea of public and private partnerships to facilitate access to childcare programs.
“In the past, companies said: ‘This is a family matter, not my responsibility,’” said Oppenheimer. “But when they began to realize and realize that the lack of affordable, quality childcare was affecting their ability to run their business, their eyes opened a little more.”
Past learning collaborations in Idaho offer a bottom-up approach, organizers say
The idea is to create early intervention collaborations between various stakeholders such as city and school leaders and local businesses and pool resources to provide affordable, comprehensive early intervention opportunities. Cooperations already exist in 15 areas of Idaho, including the Caldwell School District and Kendrick School District. The Oppenheimer Association provides a toolkit to help organizations build collaboration, and provides backbone support, technical assistance, and funding opportunities.
Idaho Industry Representatives: Lack of government support will not deter our efforts
The idea arose in part out of frustration at the lack of support at the state level.
“For years we tried to throw this football overboard and were always with ‘Nope, we won’t do that’,” said Oppenheimer. “So we took a step back five or six years ago and started looking at this issue from a different angle and turning it upside down?”
It is up to the people involved to decide how the collaboration will be conducted, LaBeau said nothing is mandated. A company could offer to subsidize childcare for an employee at one of the partner agencies, or the company could buy a certain number of places in the organization and reserve them for employees. The aim is to see how the partnerships work and how effectively they provide additional opportunities for workers and companies.
“We see this no differently than offering your employees health insurance, a retirement plan, and all the other various things of the life infrastructure that are made available to employees across the board,” said LaBeau.
Idaho is one of four states, including New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming, that do not provide state funding for pre-K programs. And when the Idaho Legislature had the opportunity to approve a $ 6 million grant from the federal government that would have supported educational collaborations at no cost to the state, the House of Representatives voted against fears of some lawmakers that this would become critical of racial theory Lessons for children. In April, then-President of the Idaho State Education Committee, Debbie Critchfield, told the House of Representatives Education Committee that she was unaware of any formal complaints or complaints regarding critical racial theory.
LaBeau said this won’t deter their efforts and the collaborations will continue and expand.
“We’re not going to let anything that was frankly completely BS derail and the legislature should know better,” LaBeau said. “At least most of them should.”
The reality, according to Oppenheimer and LaBeau, is that politics in Idaho is what it is and they prefer to let local communities and businesses determine what works best for them rather than relying on state support leaving.
“Right now, I don’t really rely on the state for the way they work,” LaBeau said. “That doesn’t mean that this isn’t an important issue. There are many very important issues that are important to the Idaho state economy. “
The economic argument is one that Oppenheimer said should sway officials like Governor Brad Little, who touts Idaho’s economic strength, particularly during the pandemic.
“Because childcare affects so many different areas in our communities and our country, it really is the glue that holds everything together,” said Oppenheimer. “Investing primarily in childcare will not only help us continue our strong economic growth, it will also support children and families.”