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City of Madison and Dane County Team to Boost Child Care Compensation and Quality

For more information contact:

Ryan Mulcahy, Assistant to the Mayor - 266-4611
Sharyn Wisniewski, County Executive's Office - 267-8823
Laura Dresser, COWS - 262-6944

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3/8/2001

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Madison Mayor Susan J.M. Bauman and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today announced a $250,000 Child Care Compensation Initiative to improve the quality of child care by boosting the income of child care workers in Madison and Dane County. The project utilizes Federal funds which the City and County were successful in persuading the State to pass through to local units of government throughout Wisconsin.

The compensation initiative, announced this morning at the Atwood Community Center preschool, makes annual awards, dispersed on a quarterly basis, ranging from $750-2,000, available to 203 child care workers at 24 centers and 45 in-home care providers.

"Retaining child care workers in our community is an urgent need," said Mayor Bauman who noted that 400 child care spaces in the city were lost last year because they couldn't be staffed. "Some centers have had teaching positions go unfilled for months, creating difficult and sometimes unsafe conditions."

County Executive Kathleen Falk said, "Increasingly in our society today, child care providers are playing a crucial role in helping to nurture our children and help them to reach their full potential as human beings." Falk said, "This initiative is an attempt to recognize the valuable services these people provide and try to keep some of these talented people from leaving for other jobs, simply for better pay."

Dane County and the City of Madison were assisted in developing the child care wage initiative by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. COWS has designed a two-year evaluation of the initiative to determine the extent to which the program helps retain workers and improve the quality of child care. The evaluation will be based on information gathered through on-site interviews and surveys of child care directors and workers at centers and homes. Further information will also be gathered through surveys and research of other data sources.

"With this initiative we have a chance to show that increasing the take-home pay of caregivers directly improves the quality of care that children receive," said Laura Dresser, research director at COWS. "Improving the care our children receive is certainly something we can all support."

The joint Madison/Dane County child care compensation initiative is similar to programs that have been implemented in Seattle, Philadelphia, and North Carolina. According to information gathered by Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C), a starting child care worker's wage in Dane County can be as little as $5.50/hour and a director's pay can be as low as $7.00/hour. 4-C also reports that in Dane County there is a one-in-three turnover rate in staff in child care centers each year. In the last few years, the turnover rate in Madison has varied from 30 - 50 percent.

"This is one of the smartest long term investments we can make in our community. We have to strengthen the child care continuum if we're going to properly nurture our youth. Improving wages to child care providers is an obvious and essential part of any solution to the child care crisis," Mayor Bauman added.

Dane County and the City of Madison will also be collaborating on efforts to meet child care needs for non-English speaking children. Madison and Dane County are experiencing significant growth in the number of families with young children whose primary language is Spanish.

Madison will use $40,000 from its Federal grant for a bi-lingual staff person to help improve access to child care services for Spanish-speaking families.

Dane County will spend $67,735 on a Hispanic child care initiative. The project will conduct outreach and refer at-home child care providers to certification classes and other training. The program will enhance links between the Hispanic community and child care programs.

The City of Madison and Dane County will also be undertaking a number of separate initiatives, funded by their Federal grants, to improve child care quality. A list of the initiatives is attached.
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