Powerful stories show child care is unaffordable for many; Great Start Scholarships are a solution

Jessie Luévano
Apr 17, 2024

This legislative session, families, lawmakers, advocates, and more have drawn attention to child care affordability as an urgent problem that requires solutions. This energy was apparent at a hearing held earlier this session in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Great Start Affordability Scholarships was one of the policy solutions lifted up in the hearing to make affordable child care available to more families and support child care providers by helping more people afford their services.

A number of testifiers spoke to the struggles with affordability they face. Parents and providers alike are looking for policy solutions; here are a few of their stories.

Ifrah Nur, director at South Metro ChildCare Academy in Bloomington, described how her child care center is struggling to make ends meet because of lack of enrollment. They are open seven days a week, and for 12 hours on weekdays and nine hours on the weekends, but they cannot find children to fill their empty slots. Ifrah hears from families that the difficulty affording child care and early learning is why they have empty slots. Ifrah spoke about her own struggles with affording child care, and how she had to leave her prior job because she couldn’t afford the cost of care. Ifrah helps families apply for child care assistance but often sees them get denied because their incomes are over the limit – in one case, because the mother was just $3 over the income limit to get child care assistance. As a child care provider, she points out the struggle of child care costs being a service “that almost no one can pay for,” but not being able to lower the price and have the business succeed. She emphasized how Great Start Scholarships would support parents to afford child care, and also support child care providers and enable them to continue to provide this essential service.

For Alaina Skoglund, parent of a young son, and full-time teacher at the Early Education Center at Minnesota State Moorhead, high child care costs are the main reason she and her husband aren’t considering having a second child. Alaina’s husband works full time as a police officer, and she spoke about how they have always wanted children close in age to each other. Her son is two and a half, but they aren’t currently considering having a second child. She says she is “not exaggerating when I say that the cost of child care is the number one factor.” Alaina said she is at “the upper end of the pay scale for child care teachers” but only makes $19.27 an hour. The cost of child care currently is 50 percent of her annual income, and if they had a second child, care costs would equal her entire salary. In a dual income household with both people providing vital community services, child care is still unaffordable for her family. Great Start Scholarships would reduce costs for her family and families like hers.

Suzanne Temple-Gumm is a high school teacher, and parent of two kids and another on the way, whose husband works two jobs. Child care takes up a large share of her family budget. In September, Susan will have three children in day care. It will cost her $45,384 a year, which is nearly 30 percent of their net household income. Her monthly child care costs will be higher than the combined cost of the family’s groceries, car payments, utilities, student loans, and mortgage. She also talked about the struggle of finding infant care. She has reached out to 21 home child care providers and seven centers. Some providers didn’t respond, others didn’t have openings for two years. For Suzanne, “It’s hard. We’re exhausted. And I do not believe it should be this hard for a family to make ends meet.”

The stories that these mothers, educators, child care providers, and community leaders shared are powerful testimonials as to why bold policy action on affordable child care is clear and urgent. Policymakers should pass Great Start Scholarships because it is a policy solution that would bring down the monthly costs of child care for many Minnesota families so they can provide the nurturing, positive early care experiences their children deserve.