A grassroots coalition of parents, teachers, and child care providers on Tuesday released a report on what it calls a “crisis” in Illinois’ child care system.
The Illinois Child Care for All Coalition — which includes the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois, Chicago Teachers Union, and several other organizations — said in its report that child care in Illinois is unavailable, unaffordable and unsustainable.
“These problems arise from the current market-based child care system, in which parents and workers shoulder the high cost of care in the form of hefty enrollment fees and low wages,” reads the report, titled “Child Care In Illinois: Parents Can’t Afford to Pay. Workers Can’t Afford to Stay.”
According to the document, a family with more than one young child could spend between $20,000 and $50,000 per year on child care. In addition, the report states that in Illinois, 58% of the population lives in an area where there aren’t enough nearby child care providers to care for the local population of children. From 2012 to 2019 in Illinois, licensed family child care capacity declined 20% and the number of license-exempt family child care homes declined by 65% — a number only exacerbated by the pandemic.
The report also said nearly 20% of early educators in Illinois live in poverty, with many making the equivalent of less than half of minimum wage.
“The undervaluing of child care workers has led to a workforce crisis for the child care industry, as family child care providers close and centers struggle to recruit staff,” the report said.
At a news conference at the Rauner YWCA on Tuesday, advocates and parents talked about the challenges of finding and maintaining child care.
Justin Russell, a parent who is part of the Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, said he had “limited options” for child care when he became a single parent at 23.
“An entire week’s pay would’ve been just enough to pay for daycare,” Russell said. “It’s a nightmare having to worry about having to miss a shift and not being able to afford food or housing or a bill because you can’t afford child care.”
Tosha Kelly-Rushton, a daycare owner with more than 20 years of experience, said, “Illinois doesn’t reimburse child care providers nearly enough. If we run our own center home child care … we never make more than $7 an hour per child.” She added that amount does not include the hours she works after the children go home.
“We’re doing cleaning, we’re washing sheets, we’re bleaching and wiping down. We’re shopping for food to prepare our meals,” Kelly-Rushton said.
She added that many parents whose children attend her daycare work for major corporations like Amazon and AT&T.
If corporations pay what they owe in taxes, Kelly-Ruhston said, “we could have free child care for all and every child care worker could receive a living wage and benefits.”
The coalition’s report said the top three employers of parents who participate in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) are Walmart, McDonalds and Amazon.
Amazon, in particular, the report said, “is noted for its practices minimizing taxes or, if possible, drawing subsidy from the government instead. The supposed rationale for many of these tax giveaways is that the company will create jobs — which end up being the very same jobs that pay so little that so many of its workers are using CCAP.”
The report called for Illinois to shift its priorities from the use of public dollars that “[help] the super-rich get even richer” to more investment in early childhood education and stable, living-wage jobs for child care workers.
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.