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New Report Details Child-Care Issues in SD

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021   

RAPID CITY, S.D. -- If South Dakota wants to turn out a thriving economy, quality affordable child care needs to be a vital component, according to a new report, which lays out how the issue affects families and their budgets.

Findings from KIDS COUNT South Dakota show most households around the state spend between $7,000 and $10,000 dollars each year for infant care from licensed providers.

Xanna Burg, KIDS COUNT coordinator for South Dakota, said it is almost as much as in-state tuition at the University of South Dakota. She argued in order for parents to stay in the workforce, they need care options better suited to their finances.

"When parents have a safe and reliable place for their children to receive care, those parents can then show up to work at the thousands of businesses across the state," Burg explained.

She pointed out child-care expenses take up even larger chunks of income for families of color in South Dakota. The report added child-care workers are often paid poverty-level wages, making it harder for centers to stay open due to turnover.

Among the recommendations are grants to expand existing facilities or build new ones. In her budget address this week, Gov. Kristi Noem proposed spending $100 million in child-care programs.

But Burg contended the state needs to embrace a number of long-term solutions to ensure care infrastructure is in place for all families. She believes it cannot happen if policymakers fail to provide more direct funding to boost wages and offer bonuses.

"A child-care worker in South Dakota making the median wage, which is $10.39 an hour, to do the essential work of caring for our children," Burg stressed.

According to KIDS COUNT, state investments make up only 2% of the estimated cost to provide child care. Gov. Noem also proposed scholarships to train skilled child-care workers in her budget plans, matching a recommendation in the report. It is unclear whether state lawmakers will adopt the suggestions.


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