Quality Childcare is NOT Expensive… IT'S PRICELESS! The true cost of childcare, especially for infants and toddlers, is greater than anyone is currently paying. When we say true cost we’re talking about the dollar amount that is needed in order to pay teachers a livable wage, provide benefits, and to run a quality program without relying on fund-raising events and grants or charging parents the entire cost just to make the budget.
On one hand many families with young children are on very tight budgets; often they can't afford good programs even when fees are kept artificially low. At the same time programs find it difficult to raise fees to parents that truly reflect the cost of providing good childcare. They worry about the children who might then lose their quality childcare.
The fact is that good childcare is expensive. The number of children per adult is limited by licensing and by quality standards. Young children need attention and supervision in order to be safe and to thrive. Quality early childhood programs require the presence of staff that is consistent, sensitive, well trained, and who earn a living for their work that allows them to be economically self-sufficient. High turnover rates in the childcare profession create instability for young children and fuels the loss of talented staff.
Many childcare programs in our community have received a Qualistar rating. This reliable, scientific instrument considers the learning environment, teacher education, ratios and group size, family involvement, and accreditation. Comprehensive, intensive, long-term intervention is an effective community investment in both fiscal and human terms. One of the most important indicators for quality in early childhood education is the teacher. His or her education, experience and personal interactions with a child are of the utmost importance.
Facts about City of Aspen Funding
Kids First and the programs, funding and services we provide are funded through a City of Aspen .45% sales tax for affordable housing and childcare! This tax was originally passed in 1990 and renewed in 1999 and 2008. Aspen is one of a handful of communities in the country to dedicate local tax dollars to its early childhood programs.
- Much of Kids First funding supports infant and toddler programs with operating funding to provide this much needed, important, and costly care. Children from birth to age 3 need constant attention, care and nurturing. Group size and ratios must be small to insure good care, and people with the special education and skills to care for these smallest children are difficult to find and to pay sufficiently to keep.
- Other grants are made available through Kids First for quality improvements and capital improvements for all licensed childcare programs in Pitkin County. The "Yellow Brick" Building houses the Kids First office and four licensed early childhood programs; and boasts a playground just renovated in August 2009.
- Over $ 312,000 is allocated to the Financial Aid program in 2009 and over 50 families receive help to meet their childcare costs. These are working families that make more than the maximum allowed for Social Services childcare assistance funding, and who would otherwise be paying as much as 25% of their gross income for childcare – as much or more than they pay for rent or their mortgage.
- Professional development funds are also an important part of Kids First funding, with over $25,000 budgeted to help over 75 early childhood program teachers in Pitkin County, including funding for T.E.A.C.H. scholarships for teachers to take needed college courses.
- Programs to address staff retention and reward education attained introduced in 2001 have had a positive affect for childcare programs in the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers, which of course benefits the children and families. From the fall semester 2008 through the fall of 2009 32 teachers have taken 65 college courses, and over 80 attended the annual in-service training sponsored in part by Kids First.
- All childcare programs in Pitkin County are in some part supported financially. Early childhood programs and the people who work in them also shoulder the cost of care with foregone wages and constant fund-raising and grant writing efforts.
Benefits of the Sales Tax
- Parents can avail themselves of affordable, good quality childcare
- Employers are better able to hire and retain employees because of the availability of quality childcare in our community.
- In the past 10 years over 3,000 families have been served in Pitkin County supported early childhood programs; and over 175 families received tuition scholarships.
- It is estimated that local childcare programs would need to charge over $130/day for infant childcare without the operating subsidy provided by the tax administered through Kids First.