Letter: Urge Minnesota legislators to continue offering Child Care Stabilization grants – InForum


The last few years have left most of us looking for any silver lining we can find. Those of us who work in child care have found the tiniest sliver of one–most people finally understand that child care in Minnesota and the U.S. is in danger of collapsing. The pandemic laid bare the dysfunctional child care system in Minnesota that is unaffordable for parents, yet leaves providers unable to pay living wages to their staff. It is a system that needs public funding to survive.

The Child Care Stabilization grants we have received in the last two years have shown us exactly what a fully-funded child care system can look like. The grants have made a world of difference in providing support to our program, employees, and small business as a whole.

For decades, child care centers have operated with no financial “padding.” We have too many fixed costs. Staffing takes up the largest part of our budget at around 70% (Note that many business experts advise against spending more than 50% of your budget on salaries.). Another 20% is used for facilities, and the last 10% for everything else. We run on such tight budgets that at our center, family members pitch in to do maintenance when not working their full-time jobs.

The Child Care Stabilization grants did exactly what they were meant to do–they stabilized child care. One of our greatest challenges is finding and retaining skilled staff. We are competing with fast food and retail that can afford to pay higher wages. But to pay our teachers higher wages, we have to increase rates for families, and they are already stretched as far as they can be.

The Child Care Stabilization grants stipulated that 70% of the grants go toward increasing compensation. We were thrilled to be able to do so for our teachers. Before the grants, our center was able to pay lead teachers only $15-$16 per hour. Now we pay $18-$18.50. We were able to move full-time assistant teachers from $12 per hour to $15 per hour and bring part-time aides and staff up to the $12-$14 per hour range. This was huge.

We were also able to offer our employees health insurance for the first time and afford to cover a larger percentage of it for them. We now offer short-term disability, life insurance, and simple IRAs as well. These benefits allow us to treat our employees the way they deserve to be treated.

Our teachers are amazing. Most of our kids are way past kindergarten level when they head to kindergarten–due to our fantastic teaching program and teachers. Our teachers love their jobs, too, but they fall into one of three categories–those who have partners who make a lot of money, those who are under 26 and still on their parents’ insurance, and those who work two to three jobs to make ends meet.

They should all be able to work one job to make ends meet without having to rely on partners or families. The stabilization grants moved us further toward that reality and gave us a greater chance of keeping our employees. Losing employees is a real danger. We’ve lost three employees in one week before–two left for higher paying jobs with full benefits.

So what happens when the grants end? We cannot decrease wages or take away benefits. We would rightfully lose staff, and probably never be able to replace them. We will have no choice but to raise rates for families. And these families are like our own families. Our teachers are our family, too. They do some of the most challenging and most valuable work in our communities. The stabilization grants are vital to us.

Minnesota has a $9 billion budget surplus. We only need a fraction of that to permanently fund child care in our state and deliver quality care in the kind of system that families, kids, providers, and teachers deserve. Child care centers across Minnesota are asking the state to continue the stabilization grants, or risk not having a child care system at all.

Jill Magnell is the owner and director and Brittany Anderson, Mariana Molina, Taylor Schleppenbach and Kylee Tack are teachers at Little Discoveries Learning Center in Moorhead.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum’s editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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