I learned plenty about the needs of children and their families from years of working in early learning and family support. But when I became a mother myself one thing became clear: Families need more affordable child care options.
The too-high cost of childcare
Currently in Tacoma, it costs between $850 and $1,500 per month to send your child to a market rate day care depending on the age of the child and whether a family qualifies for a subsidy. The costs make it hard for families to survive — and almost impossible to dream of upward mobility.
For a long time, I felt as though I was working just to pay for childcare, spending little time with my son, and still not getting ahead. It turns out, that’s not uncommon. Moms — especially single women raising kids on their own — feel this cycle the hardest. Many stay out of the workforce for six or more years, until their children enroll in elementary school, or struggle to find creative ways to bring in income and remain available to care for their children.
A bottleneck toward dreams
The lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is causing a bottleneck in achieving my
dreams and securing my family’s future. And that is true for the broader Washington state economy and society as well. Parents keep switching lanes and looking for new routes. The gridlock sidelines potential workers and frustrates employers.
I continue to hold out hope that help is on the way for families like mine — and I am heartened by recent movement in that direction. Last year, legislators in Olympia passed a capital gains tax. It was a good move in itself because our state has the most upside-down tax code in the country. Our current system means that those with the lowest incomes pay the biggest percentage of their income in state and local taxes while those with the most pay the least. The capital gains tax was one step toward fixing a great and unfair imbalance.
Capital gains: A win for families
For parents and families, the news is even better: The revenue from the capital gains tax passed in 2022 — about $450 million a year — will help provide more subsidized daycare spots and affordable options for childcare as well as help fund K-12 public schools through the Education Legacy Fund.
More affordable options for childcare won’t just benefit parents. Employers will have access to a bigger and more stable pool of workers. Educators will welcome kindergarten-ready learners with a solid foundation of social, emotional and early learning skills.
Funding a life-saving resource in ECEAP
Before experiencing the effects of unaffordable childcare myself, I served as a family support worker for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). This state-funded program, which serves families at 200% of the poverty level, is an important and even life-saving resource for children and their parents and guardians.
At ECEAP, we support families in a myriad of ways. To start, I go into the community to make sure eligible families know about our services and help them enroll if they are. Once they’re enrolled, I work with them to set goals for their children or help them identify goals for their family, for example, moving to more stable housing. I have helped homeless families find and move to apartments, assisted moms in making plans to continue their own education, connected dads to food banks and found doctors and dentists for whole families.
Every outcome better
I have seen the difference that ECEAP has made in the lives of dozens of families I’ve worked with. Every single outcome in a child’s life is better when they get a great start at preschool. Graduation rates are higher as are post-graduation employment rates. Obesity and diabetes rates are lower. Crime rates and teen pregnancy rates are lower. All of those improvements can be tied to the strong foundation that preschool provides.
Better access to early childhood education isn’t just a good idea, it makes sound economic sense for all of us.
Valuing families, giving tools
I am grateful to lawmakers for finally investing in programs like ECEAP with proceeds from the capital gains tax. This decision values families by helping us all get the tools we need to build good lives.
We’re not done yet
But there’s more to do! Legislators must keep working to make our tax code more fair and equitable, especially for Black and brown communities. State lawmakers are expected to take up the discussion of Washington’s unfair tax system when the Washington State Legislature goes back into session in early January. And, on January 26, the Washington State Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought against the capital gains income tax soon after it passed in 2022.
Learn more about this issue and how you can get involved at the nonprofit advocacy organization Invest in Washington Now.
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