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Giving Context to the High Cost of Child Care in MN

A children's advocacy group is helping to put context to Minnesota's high cost of child-care centers. (iStockphoto)
A children's advocacy group is helping to put context to Minnesota's high cost of child-care centers. (iStockphoto)
December 31, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - For married couples with children, Minnesota recently was ranked the least-affordable state in America when it comes to paying for child-care centers.

For many Minnesota parents, the average cost for that care comes in at about $14,000, which can be more expensive than state college tuition, according to a recent report from ChildCare Aware, a national children's advocacy group.

Ann McCully, executive director of ChildCare Aware Minnesota, said the report's numbers are correct, but they could use some context. She said the high cost ranking looks only at the cost of child-care centers, rather than family child-care homes.

"In Minnesota, we have about 1,200 centers. Conversely, in terms of the number of family child-care, we have over 9,000 family child-care homes," she said. "So, that's just one caveat to think about."

According to the report, those family care home costs average about $8,000, close to half of what the centers charge.

Still, McCully said, there's no denying that regardless of which services parents choose, child care can be very expensive, even for middle-class families. But she said the problem is that some child care providers are already charging less than what it's costing them to keep their doors open.

"As exorbitant as it might sound if you don't realize it, it is really not putting a lot into their pockets," she said. "And they really can't charge more because parents frankly can't afford to pay more."

With Minnesota sitting on more than a billion-dollar budget surplus, Gov. Mark Dayton has been talking about expanding a child-care tax credit once state lawmakers head back to session in March. McCully said funding for the state's Child Care Assistance Program has remained stagnant over the past several years.

"And yet, the demand is rising," she said. "Right now, we have, I think it's over 6,000 families sitting waiting to get onto that program. So, these are families who are low enough income to qualify, but the money simply isn't there to help them."

The Child Care Aware report is online at usa.childcareaware.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN