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  • Writer's pictureChildcare Connections

"Empower Workforce By Caring For Our Youngest Iowans"

The Governor challenged the Economic Recovery Advisory Board to work across all areas of state government to deliver an effective and efficient plan for rebuilding the economy. The recommendations in this report represent an opportunity to elevate how Iowans do business, modernize how we work and learn, and further improve our quality of life.


The key to economic growth is to build a highly skilled workforce. And yet too many working parents struggle to find quality, affordable child care, a problem that has intensified during the pandemic. Iowa must address this shortage and expand state-funded preschool. CONFRONT IOWA’S CHILD CARE CRISIS Iowa leads the nation for households with all parents working, but the state has too few options for child care. Twenty-three percent of Iowans live in child care deserts – areas with a shortage of licensed providers – and the state has lost 33% of its child care providers in the last five years. Child care is more expensive than housing for the average Iowa family, at $1,031 a month, according to the United Ways of Iowa.

The child care crisis touches every corner of the state and every segment of the population, and it hurts more than Iowa families. It also costs Iowa close to a billion dollars each year in lost tax revenue and employee absences. The Expanding Workforce Working Group’s recommendation to develop a comprehensive strategy addressing Iowa’s child care crisis scored highest of the Advisory Board’s top 18. The working group proposed that a group of Iowans convene to develop a strategic plan under the leadership of the Iowa Business and Child Care Coalition, Iowa Workforce Development, and the Iowa Department of Human Services. Read the full recommendation on page 103. EXPAND STATE-FUNDED PRESCHOOL High-quality preschool sets the stage for a thriving workforce for both today and tomorrow. Research shows preschool has long-term benefits for: • Students, who are more likely to enter school ready to learn, to graduate on time, and to find employment, with even greater gains for children from low-income and dual-language backgrounds • The economy, with an impressive return on public investment as high as $17 for every dollar • Working parents, given the scarcity of high-quality, affordable child care Iowa put in place a state-funded preschool program in 2007 to provide more 4-year-old children the foundation to enter kindergarten ready to learn. The Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program provides at least 10 hours a week of instruction by Iowa-licensed teachers through a stable funding source: Iowa’s state school-aid formula. Iowa spends about $86 million annually on the program, which is an important part of the state’s comprehensive early childhood effort. While enrollment numbers have multiplied since 2007, the state preschool program is far from universal: about 62% of Iowa’s 4-year-old children attended in 2019. Education leaders point to barriers such as space constraints for schools and complications for working parents, who may pass up state-paid preschool to pay for child care of lesser quality because 10 hours of preschool falls short of their care needs. To give more children a stronger start in school and to help offset child care costs for working parents, the Education Working Group recommends continuing universal state preschool programming while also providing more targeted programming for children who lack opportunities at home and need more support. This could include children from low-income backgrounds and children with special needs. The group’s goal is to increase the percentage of 4-year-old children attending preschool to 90% by 2024.

Read the full recommendation on page 71

Reprinted from the Governor's Economic Recovery Advisory Board report issued February, 2020

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