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Republicans insult child care providers with ineffective bill package, disrespectful 'babysitting' comments
Guest column by Corrine Hendrickson, co-founder of WECAN (Wisconsin Early Childhood Action Needed) and the owner and operator of Little Explorers Family Child Care.
The Recombobulation Area is a ten-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written, edited and published by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
This guest column is by Corrine Hendrickson, the co-founder of WECAN (Wisconsin Early Childhood Action Needed) and the owner and operator of Corrine’s Little Explorers Family Child Care in New Glarus, Wis.
“How is babysitting going?”
This has been a common question I’ve been asked over the nearly 16 years I have owned and operated a family child care business. “My family child care is going well, full with a waitlist,” is my response. “People always are having babies and need to work,” is often what I hear back.
This has always bothered me, equating caring for and educating our youngest and most vulnerable with “babysitting.” I don’t disrespect babysitters, they play an important role as a short term — giving parents a break, in a child’s own home – but it bothers me because it dismisses the first five years of a child’s life. Those are arguably the most important time of brain development and creating the foundation for their entire life trajectory. What we should be doing is investing in child care as the public good that it is.
These “babysitting” remarks bother me because we aren’t honoring childhood. It bothers me because it disrespects and belittles my entire profession and life’s work and the work of almost one million others throughout our country. Child care professionals make in the bottom 2% of all wages of all jobs and very rarely have employer-provided benefits.
Over the last two weeks it has been made abundantly clear that Republicans in state government not only disrespect, but outright deride the work that I do.
To hear them speak during hearings and votes you would know that 11-year-olds could do this work, and do it well. All they need is a “Red Cross Certificate,” as State Rep. Donna Rozar (R - Marshfield) stated, alongside many other Republican representatives who “babysat and stayed busy.” To hear them say we aren’t business owners and that public investment should be saved for “real businesses” with actual employees, as State Rep. John Macco (R - Ledgeview) said.
Never mind that more than 21,000 people are employed by the approximate 4,500 child care businesses in our state and that these people working in child care continue to earn the average of $13 per hour — that the Child Care Counts program directly increased from $10.66 in 2020 — you need to care for and educate several more children in your classroom, as one bill called for. Republicans implied that $13 per hour, simply, is being paid too much for the work that we already do, and that we must work harder to “earn” that money.
Republican representatives who “wrote” the bills in the package that passed the Assembly last week did not even know what was in them. They did not know that the Child Care Savings Account bill clearly states that unspent money will be forfeited. Elected representatives made statements during the bill session that are misleading or outright false.
State Rep. Joy Goeben (R - Hobart) said during the committee hearing that she met and visited several child care programs prior to writing the legislation, but then an open records request showed that there were zero of these meetings on her schedule.
State Rep. Mark Born said, and multiple Republican representatives are continuing to email out, “Our state has invested more in child care than any other budget.” That is flat-out false, and as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, Born must know that is false. Our state has accepted federal dollars, over $100 million, and spent them as required. Wisconsin puts the minimum of $19.5 million to receive that money.
I couldn’t figure out why so many of my colleagues in the child care profession couldn’t get their elected officials to respond to their emails, accept the invitation to visit their program, attend roundtables and discussions within their own district. I couldn’t figure out why the Child Care Counts program has been regarded as such an offensive and waste of state dollars.
But now I know. Simply put, they think we add nothing of value and aren’t worthy of their time.
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