Hope for Preschool Funding
posted by Amy

Reading this article was a bright spot in a week of dismal news stories. At the small preschool my daughter attended for two wonderful years, they receive at least one phone call a day looking for a recommendation for an infant/toddler daycare. Josie's preschool takes kids starting at age 2, and though they'd love to expand and start an infant/toddler program, that's just not financially possible.

I only know all this because one of the teachers, upon hearing that I watch my toddler nephew once a week, asked if I'd take on other babies and toddlers. She's always looking for someone to whom she can refer the desperate parents whose calls she fields.

While I'm not looking to start a daycare (teaching college freshmen + caring for my three kids = enough caregiving for now), I empathize with those parents. When my stepson Vincent was ready for preschool, I spent days calling around, trying to find a school with an empty spot. I lucked out by getting him into the on-campus preschool, but only because my teaching schedule that semester meant I needed daycare hours that weren't in high demand (think Thursdays from 3-5 p.m.).

That experience, as well as the subsequent searches for an affordable, high-quality, part-time program for Henry and later for Josie, taught me that access to high-quality early childhood education is by no means widespread.

Finding--and affording--preschool requires great effort. The truly affordable 2 hours/day, 2 days/week programs assume a stay-at-home parent (or a nanny) and don't support working parents. Many full-time preschools charge more than most parents can afford (and yet are barely able to cover their costs--no one goes into early childhood education to get rich).

Childcare and healthcare are two of the most pressing financial (and emotional) issues many parents deal with. I'm hopeful that President-elect Obama will make changes in both of these patchwork systems to make families' lives just a little bit easier. As every parent knows, well-educated, healthy kids are the promise of a brighter future.