The childcare crisis in South Dakota, a possible solution

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Sunday
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 10:56 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The childcare crisis isn’t new to South Dakota, in fact, an advocate for childcare in South Dakota said that she has been battling the issue for more than a decade. Low wages, work shortages, and affordable childcare are all issues for parents and providers.

With only enough licensed and registered childcare providers in the state to satisfy 64 percent of the need, Kayla Klein a childcare advocate, says businesses need to take the initiative.

“Gosh, I’ve talked to casinos that have purchased buildings so they can have houses for their children-or for their staff. They’ve purchased slots in an apartment, just so they know that they’re going to have housing if that’s a barrier for their workforce,” explains the Director of Early Learners South Dakota, Kayla Klein. “The same thing needs to happen with childcare and we’re slowly starting to see that happen with childcare.”

Kline says the childcare business cannot be looked at like a typical business. Most businesses can increase the price of goods or services if they need to pay their employees more or if costs increase. Childcare providers cannot do that. One possible solution Kline has been discussing would be to split the cost of childcare.

“Something we’ve been talking a lot about is this model of tri-share. Some states have been trying this where a third is paid by the state, a third is paid by the business, and a third is paid by the parent.”

Michigan uses a similar program for people at a certain income level. However, that state does have a 4.25 percent state income tax and used various state funding and grant options to fund the tri-share program.

In South Dakota, parents and providers agree that something needs to change to keep childcare providers. A report from South Dakota Kids Count says the median wage for a childcare worker in the state is just below $11, which is barely enough for a three-person household to live above the poverty line.

Klein states, “And the state will either have to decide to invest in the children in the State of South Dakota or, I would say and, businesses need to get creative and innovative and support their workforce when it comes to childcare.”

Klein is hoping to ensure childcare workers are paid competitive wages and parents have fair access to high-quality learning for their children.

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