By SHERI GASSAWAY
Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you can afford quality childcare or that it’s available when you need it.
Tishaura Jones, treasurer of the City of St. Louis, personally knows the struggle. In 2009, Jones, a single mom, was serving as a Missouri House representative in District 69 and often times had to bring her 3-year-old son on the House floor with her because of the hours.
“I shopped around for months trying to find quality childcare that was accessible when I needed it,” she said. “In the end I spent more on childcare than I did on my mortgage. Six years later, I’m just now getting to the point where I can save for my retirement and his college fund.”
Jones, who is running for the St. Louis mayoral seat in 2017, was a guest speaker at a Nov. 19 town hall meeting on early childcare. About 15 people attended the event, which was hosted by the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).
During the meeting, Jones spoke about the College Kids Children’s Savings Account program, which began two years ago. As part of the program, the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office provides a $50 college savings account to every kindergarten student entering the city’s public school system.
Jones said she got the idea from San Francisco’s city treasurer who recently started a similar program called Kindergarten to College. The St. Louis program is funded by a portion of money collected for parking fines after all the treasurer’s office bills are paid.
“Research conducted at Washington University shows that students with college savings accounts in their own names… even low income students who have less than $500 saved, are three are three times more likely to go to college and four times more likely to complete college,” she said. “So just think about the change this could have in our city.”
Other speakers at the meeting included: Anitra Arms, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Missouri; Pam Mitchell, a board member of the St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council; Susan Crosby, early childhood literacy coordinator at St. Louis Public Schools; Lindsey Noblot, early childhood education coordinator at Beyond Housing; and Rasheen Aldridge, an early childcare organizer at SEIU Local 1.
In addition to St. Louis’ College Kids Children’s Savings Account program, participants also learned about the St. Louis Public Schools free pre-kindergarten program and Beyond Housing’s 5 by Age 5 early childhood initiative in the Normandy School District.
- Three out of four young children are in non-parental care, and about half of those children are in home-based care whether formal (paid) or informal (unpaid).
- Infant care in Missouri costs on average $8,632 a year. For someone working full time and earning minimum wage/$15,912 a year, the cost share for infant care is 54 percent.
- We no longer live in a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. economy, which creates problems for parents who don’t work traditional hours.
- Missouri ranks 43 nationwide on providing assistance to low-income families.
- The average salary for an infant/toddler teacher is $9.30, and some early childcare centers are barely able to pay their employees and keep their doors open.
Some solutions discussed at the meeting were:
- Talking to legislators throughout the year about early childcare needs.
- Meeting with low-income parents to spread the word about early childcare options available in their areas.
- Investigating grants available to school districts so they can include pre-kindergarten care.
- Involving business groups like the St. Louis Regional Chamber in the discussion.
- Exploring social impact bonds that may be available through cities that could result in programs similar to St. Louis’ College Kids Children’s Savings Account program.
Several participants at the meeting agreed to stay in touch to get the ball rolling on some of the ideas. To get involved in the conversation, contact Marcia Cline, chairwomen of the CLUW Town Hall Committee, at 314-805-6774 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.