Thoughtful Parenting: First Impressions encourages voters to consider early childhood
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
First Impressions of Routt County is committed to proactively identifying the varied needs of children and families and driving innovative solutions that create inclusive, family-centered options for high quality early childhood care and education so that parents can work, children are in nurturing and enriching environments, and the community understands, values and supports young children.
The winners of an election at any level have opportunities to enact policies that impact high quality early childhood care and education. We encourage you to be an early childhood voter and carefully consider which candidates’ goals and plans align with yours on the critical issue of early childhood care and education.
We posed the following questions to candidates for Routt County commissioner, state House District 26, and state Senate District 8. Their answers are unedited below.
What do you see as the value and role of early childhood care and education to our community and society?
County commissioner candidates
Sonja Macys: ECE providers create a safe place for children to grow and develop so parents can participate in the workforce. Ninety percent of brain development occurs in the first five years, making this time critical. Children have a greater chance at success in life when they have quality ECE.
Kathi Meyer: As a single parent working mom, I experienced firsthand the value of quality child care which transitioned into enriched early childhood education. With the State now providing early childhood education, all children will be better prepared to enter kindergarten on equal footing.
House District 26 candidates
Savannah Wolfson: As a mother, I experience the childcare crisis and it’s a top priority for me. In 16 years, we went from 24 licensed, in home centers down to 11, leaving families stranded. Childcare is a small business that empowers other businesses to run. It’s essential for hardworking families like mine.
Meghan Lukens: As a local social studies teacher, I understand the importance of early childhood care in allowing our economy to thrive and the importance of education to strengthen our children’s futures, which is why supporting early childhood care is a priority. Investing in our children is an investment in our future.
Senate District 8 candidates
Matt Solomon: “Everything we needed to know, we learned in kindergarten.” Early Childhood teachers help our children learn the skills needed to progress through life. The importance of social-emotional skills needed to develop friendships and to express themselves through play and movement is a foundational piece in the maturity of our youth.
Dylan Roberts: Not only does the early childhood care and education system help chart our future generations on a course towards lifelong learning and emotional growth so they can be healthy, productive community-members, they provide parents and guardians the ability to return to work and care for their families.
We all recognize that the child care system does not seem to be working in many ways. What do you see as the three biggest factors causing this system to fail?
Macys: Factors are affordability, supply and quality. 63% of parents can’t afford child care. One in three working families struggle to find child care. Business-related barriers make it difficult to become a licensed provider. ECE professionals are paid low wages, particularly given the demands of the job and continuing education required.
Meyer: We need to do a minimum of three things: Work to make childcare providers career more attractive through better pay and benefits. We need to provide affordable access to families to quality childhood education. We need to retain the workers we have by providing incentives to grow in their field.
Wolfson: I visited centers to hear from providers and experts. Childcare is experiencing a staffing shortage, and costs are high. The state has passed regulations on providers that add extra burdens, like not allowing babywearing while infants sleep. If parents are comfortable with a provider babywearing, the state should get out of the way.
Lukens: Early childhood care costs for families are too high, the workforce is underpaid, and there is a lack of childcare facilities. These three compounding issues make childcare unattainable and unaffordable for many families because of our high cost of living in House District 26. Addressing this is a top priority.
Solomon: Parents are having to choose between rent, food, and childcare. The current rate of inflation is making it harder for families to survive month-to-month. Additionally, there is shortage of teachers, housing options, and classrooms. With unnecessary regulation burdening the system and the potential for harder student to teach ratios, the system is overwhelmed.
Roberts: Scarcity, cost, and maintaining a full-time workforce in child care are the most prominent hurdles voiced by my constituents and experts in the field. The increased cost of living in our communities makes entering the child care workforce difficult for too many which translates into less availability for the community.
If elected, how will you build on the work by the (county/state – depending on your role) to date to increase access to affordable, high quality child care and education?
Macys: I will ensure robust funding for the Routt County Department of Human Services, including First Impressions. I’ve served on the First Impressions Board and know its value. I will learn more about how the County can support the Colorado Department of Early Childhood in launching Universal Preschool in 2023-24.
Meyer: I view the County as a major employer and it needs to provide financial assistance perhaps through vouchers today, while working on a bigger, long-range solution. Solving this problem will allow both parents access to the job market, is they so choose, resulting in a more stable workforce.
Wolfson: I plan to reach across the aisle and find a mom experiencing the same crisis as me. We will bring experts together to increase access to good care, like allowing babywearing. Laws surrounding childcare should protect families and providers without being burdensome. I also believe in tax breaks for providers.
Lukens: I will work with childcare leaders to find a sustainable funding source and pass supportive legislation to lower child care costs and ensure staff can be well-compensated. I will prioritize fully funding schools so students receive the best education we have to offer and teachers are paid a living wage.
Solomon: We need to look at how we can help support the system that is supporting ECE in our state. Our state government has grown tremendously in the last four years. The result is exaggerated inflation, over regulation, and elevated costs at every corner. We need to foster the local systems; finding creative and sustainable solutions for early childhood care.
Roberts: Affordable and accessible child care has been a priority for me, like my bill to eliminate property taxes for nonprofit child care and investing historic funding. Yet, there is more to do and I will work with local stakeholders to craft legislation that reduces barriers and increases funding to child care.
This candidate Q&A has taken the place of the regular Thoughtful Parenting column in the Steamboat Pilot & Today and was provided by First Impressions Early Childhood Council. First Impressions serves as the hub for all early childhood resources in Routt County. For more, FirstImpressionsOfRouttCounty.org.
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