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State Lawmakers Contemplate Child Care Changes

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 By Jim Wishner/Jamie Folsom, Contact
March 8, 2007

State lawmakers will consider legislation today designed to help Minnesota families pay for child care. The House of Representative's Early Childhood Learning Finance Committee takes up debate this afternoon.

Representative Nora Slawik, the bill's author, says it uses a fee based on income to ensure all families needing quality care can afford it. She calls it one of the state's highest priorities.

"Child care is part of helping parents stay in the workplace. It also helps kids get that early education they need to start school."

Slawik says child care support is still suffering from the over $200-million in budget cuts over the past four years, which have put thousands of Minnesota families in a financial bind.

The proposal has the support of children's advocates, such as Nina Englander, with Child Care Works, who says the current child care assistance system has some flaws that hurt working parents.

"The eligibility is quite low, so a lot of low-income working families are ineligible to receive the care, even though
they're unable to pay for child care on their own. There's also a very long waiting list for families who are eligible, about 2,700 families statewide."

Englander adds almost three quarters of Minnesota families depend on some type of child care, and the cost keeps increasing, while wages do not.

Rep. Slawik believes affordable, quality child care is key to getting kids ready for school.

"Early care is where they're learning their colors, their numbers, and those skills they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond. It's important for parents and for working families. Quality child care helps parents stay at the work place, but also helps their kids move more towards a successful experience in school."

The "Child Care Assistance Reform Bill" is HF920. The hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. today, in room 200 of the Senate Office Building.

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