‘There is no workforce’: Child care centers can’t find long term staff

SPOKANE, Wash. — Child care centers across the Inland Northwest can’t find enough long-term employees.

According to the Department of Commerce, Washington has a 43-percent turnover rate for child care staff. If centers can’t find people, they’ll have to start turning families away.

“The biggest issue right now is just there is no workforce,” said Kerra Bower, who owns Little Scholars Early Learning Center.

At Little Scholars, the normal turnover rate is around two to three years. Now, she’s seeing people leave within weeks after starting.

“It’s been weeks. It’s not unheard of to have a teacher we spend two to three weeks training them and then their first week in the classroom, regardless of the amount of support, we’re seeing those teachers leave,” Bower said.

Child care centers are competing with other jobs that are less stressful and pay more. Bower is raising her employee’s wages, but she has a tight budget from the state. This means she can’t make infrastructure or other classroom updates.

“There’s fast food places around town that are offering 15 to 17 dollars an hour for people to come in and work there, and what we are asking is so much more than what is required in a fast food location,” Bower said.

The state knows this is a crisis. They’re studying the total cost of child care and trying to find ways to raise wages without putting an extra burden on families. The Child Care Task Force is set to release these findings in November 2022.

One idea Bower has to help this crisis is to give child care centers more flexibility with private pay families. Since she is state-funded, she has to raise rates when the state increases its contributions. This makes it harder for middle-class families trying to pay for care without subsidies.

“What I charge a private pay family is directly linked to what the state pays me,” she said. “I cannot charge a private pay family less than what the state is currently paying.”

Little Scholars is running with only 14 employees. They normally have 20. The vaccine mandate is another concern for Bower. She says she’s already lost one long-term employee and has resignations from four others who don’t want the vaccine and will lose their jobs in the coming months.

If you’re looking for child care, Little Scholars is still accepting new families. You can find more information HERE.

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