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Quality, affordable childcare improves education and training opportunities

August 27, 2015

Quality, affordable childcare improves education and training opportunities


August 26, 2015

By Casey O’Donnell


Quality, affordable childcare improves education and training opportunities

Colorado Center on Law and Policy  (CCLP)


Editor’s note: This blog posting uses excerpts from testimony prepared by Casey O’Donnell, Research and Policy Analysis Associate at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

Casey gave the testimony during the Aug. 17 meeting of the Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission Interim Committee regarding the question of whether sufficient childcare is available to parents as they pursue training and education in the interest of their family’s economic security.

Census data demonstrates that parental educational attainment is a significant predictor of poverty. Single mothers without a high school education experience poverty at a rate of 52 percent. By contrast, only 18 percent single mothers with a college degree or higher live in poverty.

We know that providing parents with a pathway to greater educational attainment and greater economic security pays dividends for the developing child. For instance, when comparing children of mothers who did not complete high school to children of mothers who earned bachelor’s degrees, the differences in poverty and learning outcomes can be substantial. We also know that a lack of childcare can limit progress towards educational attainment. In fact, 80 percent of single mothers looking to attain some form of post-secondary education say that childcare is crucial factor for attending college. If they do enroll, it could take these parents up to 15 years to complete their degrees. That’s time lost for the children — who will ideally realize the economic and social benefits of their parents’ education. The expanded graduation timeline increases dropout rates and forces families to remain in poverty for extended periods of time.

Meanwhile, few educational institutions offer support systems for students with children. While some colleges provide onsite childcare, such offerings may be cost-prohibitive for many low-income parents. In 2014, only four state colleges received federal funding for childcare under the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program.

Workforce centers, tasked with training and retraining workers, usually do not provide childcare. Clients with childcare needs are often referred to human services departments. The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) does allow funds to be used for childcare. Unfortunately, there is not enough federal money to provide childcare along with other support services needed for the program’s target population. Under the new WIOA bill, workforce centers must prioritize services for those with barriers to employment for 18-24 year olds — many of whom are parents.

Similarly, most adult education and literacy programs do not have a childcare arrangement, thus parents often defer participation until their children are school-aged — decreasing the developmental yield those training programs might offer to their children. Under HB14-1317, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) must now consider post-secondary education as an eligible activity, though counties are free to prioritize employment related care over care for parents in enrolled in school.

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy is currently looking into 2015 data to investigate to what extent CCCAP is being used for post-secondary training. Prior to the implementation of HB 1317, about 2,700 children had at least one instance of care authorized for post-secondary education compared to just under 60,000 children living under 225 percent of the poverty line who have a parent enrolled in post-secondary education. While Colorado Works (which operates under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal block grant) offers childcare, the program is first and foremost an employment-focused service for those living in deep poverty.

We feel there are many opportunities to develop a two-generational approach to the myriad causes of poverty and disparate educational outcomes. A task force should be charged with evaluating the best way for state agencies to serve the needs of low-income parents who wish to advance their education. Members of the task force should include representatives from the Department of Labor, the Department of Higher Education, the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services, as well as representatives of organizations that serve parents of young children in the employment and training arena, representatives of childcare providers, and parents who have sought or completed education and training while parenting small children.

By delaying the education and training opportunities that could provide a decent paycheck for working families, we are depriving two generations of critical time. The longer a parent stays trapped in low-wage work, the longer their children will experience the deleterious effects of poverty on brain development, educational achievement and health. That is why we support policy solutions to turn the needle in the right direction.

— Casey O’Donnell

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