Wisconsin report details child care’s high cost, low wages

The number of children per child care worker is up 37% or more since 2015
Gov. Evers seeks $365 million to make a pandemic-era child care program permanent
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:52 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 12:23 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin’s Legislature was called to meet in a special session Wednesday to address a child care crisis in the state.

Gov. Tony Evers proposes spending millions in an attempt to resolve the issue. He’s calling on the Legislature to spend $365 million on child care statewide to make the pandemic-era Child Care Counts program permanent. Child Care Counts, which helped to pay wages and keep child care centers open, is expected to run out of funding in January. The Legislature gaveled in and quickly gaveled out of the special session without taking any action as it works out its own child care proposals.

This call for a special session comes as a new report is released breaking down how and why child care is so expensive.

Forward Analytics, the research arm of the Wisconsin Counties Association, says it essentially boils down to supply and demand. There are a lot of children in need of day care and not enough workers.

This new report finds that in the Green Bay area, the number of children per child care worker has gone up 42% since 2015. In Appleton, it went up 37%.

Child care workers are leaving the industry because their wages haven’t caught up, especially with inflation.

”If you think about your retail workers, your box store workers, their companies can afford to pay them more money. Child care workers are not necessarily in line for a raise because child care providers don’t have the money to pay them more. They can’t charge more money because parents are already paying a very large part of their household income toward child care,” Kevin Dospoy, deputy director of Forward Analytics, said.

According to the report, in 2022 the average wage for a child care worker in Wisconsin was just under $13 an hour. For a preschool teacher, it was just over $14 an hour.

If something isn’t done to retain workers, and costs keep rising, it could have an impact on the workforce.

“You’re going to see more people stay out of the labor force, because if you have a two-parent household and it costs you 30% of your income to send your kids to child care, at some point you’re going to think maybe one of us should stay home,” Dospoy said.