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More must be done to make child care affordable

When I first moved to Iowa, I had four children ages 5 and under. The thought of getting a job, much less finding childcare for my small children was overwhelming. I became a registered child care provider. I was able to stay at home with my children and care for additional children in my home for the next ten years.

Child care providers offer a much-needed service for families and for our economy. The House improved services for providers, families and businesses with several bills this week. These bills would double the income threshold for a pair of child care tax credits; allow families to gradually phase out of a state child care assistance program as their incomes increase; raise reimbursement rates for child care providers; create tax incentives for businesses that offer child care to their employees; and create a new matching grant fund for communities that participate in child care workforce programs.

While these bills are a good first step, House Democrats offered a proposal to provide grants to expand and open new licensed child care facilities; create new partnership with small businesses to expand childcare; and expand the Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit, all while ensuring children are kept safe. These amendments were not passed. The issues will now go to the Senate for approval before they can be signed into law by the Governor.

As the pandemic made Iowa’s child care crisis even worse, more must be done to make child care more affordable and accessible for Iowa families.

On Thursday, the house voted along party lines to accept the school funding at an increase of 2.4 percent or about $21.5 million dollars in new money. The democrats had proposed a 3.85 percent increase which amounted to $106 million in new money. The GOP passed bill does not do enough to help Iowa kids recover from the pandemic. With this bill, students in 137 school districts will receive less funds than they received last year. Districts will make up this difference by raising property taxes on thousands of families, seniors, and small businesses still struggling during the pandemic.

Due to COVID-19, some parents delayed starting their kids in either preschool or kindergarten or decided to homeschool. This means schools will receive less funding next school year just as many of those kids return to the classroom. Over 6,000 less students enrolled in Iowa schools last August, but the funding passed is $75 million less in new funding than last year.

At a time when district staff, families and students have adapted time and time again to provide the best learning for students, they are being underfunded by the republicans. I was very disappointed that we could not find some common ground on this bill. Every amendment that was proposed was defeated basically along party lines. With the interrupted learning our students have had over the past two years, we need to adequately fund systems to accelerate that learning for our students. This bill does not accomplish this for our kids.

Please feel free to contact me at Sue.cahill@legis.iowa.gov.

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Sue Cahill is the state representative for District 71.

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