Herrin highlights PA childcare needs at public hearing

WEST CHESTER, Aug. 18 -- Strengthening Pennsylvania’s childcare system and supporting children and families was the focus at state Rep. Dianne Herrin’s House Democratic Policy Committee hearing.

Herrin’s hearing took a comprehensive look at the vital role quality child care plays in children’s development and Pennsylvania’s economy.

“Well-funded early childhood education and high-quality child care set a foundation for the future success of our children,” Herrin said. “This is not just a women’s issue or a family issue, but an issue that impacts all of our communities, our economy, and our long-term success as a society and nation. I believe shining a light on the significant staffing shortage our providers face, insufficient government funding, and need for high-quality care will bring about bipartisan policy solutions that will ensure healthy growth and development of our children. This will benefit all of us.”

Betsy Billie, executive director of the West Chester Area Day Care Center, focused on the difficulty of retaining staff and challenges faced through the COVID-19 pandemic. Jonathan Ragonese shared a parent perspective, including the difficulty of balancing costs with work and family expenses. The real cost of quality child care is akin to tuition at a state-funded university.

Carol Austin, executive director of First Up and Kimberly Early, director of public policy and advocacy with Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, spoke to the critical development and enrichment opportunities that quality early childhood education provides children, and the fact that this lays a proven foundation for success throughout life.

Dr. Laura Crispin provided insight into the economic benefits of investing in child care – including how expanded access to these services will allow workers to get back to the workforce, how high-quality care prepares a qualified workforce for the future, and how investing in staff in the childcare sector itself is essential to attracting and retaining qualified care providers and educators. Crispin serves at Saint Joseph’s University as associate professor, Department of Economics, and program director of Undergraduate & Graduate Public Policy.

Submitted for the record was testimony from Taryn Morrissey, associate professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs, who noted that quality investments can help address inequality in communities of color.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center deputy campaign manager Katy Personette reinforced the strong need for public investment in high quality child care, noting that investments pay for themselves 17 times over in future benefits to the state and country. One such example as noted by Herrin in her closing remarks is the need for not only a civilian but a military population that is educated and physically fit, as noted by the organization of senior military leaders known as “Mission Readiness,” which views quality early childhood education as a national security issue.

Full testimony from the hearing is available at www.pahouse.com/policy.