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Calif. Child-Care Workers Rally for Higher Pay

California child-care providers are pushing for higher reimbursement rates from the state, to make their pay equal to $15 an hour. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
California child-care providers are pushing for higher reimbursement rates from the state, to make their pay equal to $15 an hour. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
April 7, 2016

LOS ANGELES - California may have just passed a $15 minimum wage but it doesn't apply to many child-care providers, who are independent contractors.

So today, a group known as the "Raising California Together Coalition" gathers in Sacramento to push for policy changes that its members say would lift child-care workers out of poverty.

Many in-home child-care providers are paid by the state to care for children from low-income families.

Tonia McMillian has run a small day care, Kiddie Depot, in L.A. for 22 years, and says she barely scrapes by because the rates are so low. She feels she can't just raise prices, because the families who depend on her are already stretched to the limit.

"It's not fair. There's nothing fair about this at all," says McMillian. "And this system needs a complete upheaval. Let's make it where it's equitable."

Statistics show California is home to more than 100,000 family child-care home operators and more than 7,800 child-care centers.

McMillian notes that centers large and small will have a hard time paying their employees the new minimum wage unless the state reimbursement rates go up.

Kate Miller, a senior associate for early childhood policy with the nonprofit advocacy group Children Now, says California legislators could raise the reimbursement rates significantly by approving the $800 million budget request made by the Women's Legislative Caucus.

"The reimbursement rate for state-subsidized programs is so low right now that child-care workers are making incredibly low wages," Miller says. "At some estimates, the family child-care worker is below $5 an hour."

A study released Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute shows in 2014, the median wage for child-care workers was almost 40 percent less than other professions.

It also says increasing child-care workers' wages leads to less turnover and higher quality care for children.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA