Con­gress­woman Su­san Wild hosts Al­len­town fo­rum on child care

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Margie Peter­son

How do you keep tal­ented staff for high qual­ity child care cen­ters when pay­ing them what they are worth means a cen­ter has to price par­ents out of the mar­ket?

That was one of the ques­tions at the heart of a fo­rum Mon­day evening at the Res­ur­rected Life Com­mu­nity Church in Al­len­town that at­tracted about 150 peo­ple. The fo­rum was or­ga­nized by U.S. Rep. Su­san Wild, the Le­high Val­ley con­gress­woman who brought in fed­eral, state and lo­cal panelists to an­swer ques­tions from the pub­lic and en­cour­age ad­vo­cacy for more gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for par­ents who need child care.

Wild said only 27% of chil­dren in Penn­syl­va­nia who are el­i­gi­ble for Head Start get a spot in the long­time early ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram. Those who care about that deficit need to ad­vo­cate for the pro­grams and vote for law­mak­ers who sup­port them, she said.

“One of the re­marks I get most of­ten ... is along the lines of ‘Well, no­body helped me so why should my tax dol­lars go to help other peo­ple, or young­sters in the com­mu­nity, when no­body helped me?’” Wild said.

She said the an­swer is so­ci­ety and the econ­omy de­pend on an ed­u­cated work­force. “We need young peo­ple to suc­ceed, so they can con­tinue to build our econ­omy and grow our econ­omy,” Wild said. “So that peo­ple who want to re­tire some­day have a base of work­ing peo­ple who are there to help them and the So­cial Se­cu­rity sys­tem. It’s re­ally a com­mu­nity-based ef­fort to make our econ­omy con­tinue to work. It starts with mak­ing sure peo­ple get the ed­u­ca­tion they need.”

The Rev. Gre­gory Ed­wards, the pas­tor of Res­ur­rected Life, said there are some pub­lic per­cep­tions that low-in­come par­ents don’t care enough about their kids to pro­vide for good early ed­u­ca­tion. His church runs the Res­ur­rected Life Chil­dren’s Acad­emy child care cen­ter.

“I’ve never met a par­ent who was not con­cerned about the well-be­ing or fu­ture of their child,” Ed­wards said, point­ing out that many of the chil­dren en­rolled have par­ents work­ing two and three jobs.

Pan­elist U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott of Vir­ginia, who is chair­man of the House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee, urged sup­port for the Child Care for Work­ing Fam­i­lies Act, fed­eral leg­is­la­tion that would bet­ter sub­si­dize child care for those who can’t af­ford it.

“Fred­er­ick Dou­glass said it’s eas­ier to build strong chil­dren than to re­pair bro­ken men,” Scott said.

Cyn­thia McIn­nis, direc­tor of Lit­tle Archie’s Club­house in Al­len­town said she has tal­ented staff but can’t af­ford to pay them what they are worth.

“I have staff mem­bers who are pas­sion­ate about tak­ing care of chil­dren, but I can’t pay them enough to take care of their own,” McIn­nis said.

She was echoed by Crys­tal Lopez, direc­tor of early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion at Kid­die City Early Learn­ing Cen­ter in Al­len­town, who said it’s hard to find and keep qual­i­fied staff while keep­ing the cost af­ford­able for par­ents.

Pan­elist Penn­syl­va­nia Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Pe­dro Rivera said Gov. Tom Wolf has done his best to get more money for ed­u­ca­tion but the sys­tem has been un­der­funded for so long that there is a lot of catch­ing up to do.

“We’re pretty much in some ar­eas putting a Band Aid over an open wound,” Rivera said. “It’s all about the re­sources that are avail­able.”

KRIS­TEN HAR­RI­SON/THE MORN­ING CALL

U.S. Rep. Su­san Wild hosts fo­rum Mon­day on child care.

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