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D.C., New Mexico Offer Noem Ideas for Fixing South Dakota’s Childcare Shortage

Kristi Noem said something about supporting families now that South Dakota has enacted its forced-pregnancy law. Since she’s a little slow on the uptake, maybe we can help her find plans that other places that actually care about women and children are implementing. For instance, the District of Columbia is writing checks to childcare providers and pushing their pay closer to parity with public school teachers:

Childcare provider Damaris Mejia is about to get the biggest pay raise of her life, starting this summer: the District of Columbia will send her and her co-teachers each a big check, between $10,000 and $14,000.

At last, “I will have happy teachers!” she says, laughing.

…”Our early learning system is in a really fragile state,” says Kimberly Perry, executive director of the advocacy group DC Action.

Perry says this year’s bonus checks to D.C. providers will launch a transformation that began before the pandemic. In 2018, she helped push through a law to help families pay for childcare — D.C.’s is among the most expensive in the country at more than $2,000 a month — and to stem a shortage of early educators by paying them more on par with public school teachers.

“Their peers in the public school system, doing comparable work, might begin their careers making $60, $63,000 a year,” Perry says. “That’s a big gap.”

The new law was unfunded until last year, when the city council passed a tax increase on wealthier households. Among other things, that will fund the bonus checks to childcare providers this year and next, until the pay raise is funneled into regular paychecks. But the tax increase will only cover less than a quarter of what the law calls for [Jennifer Ludden, “Bonus Checks! One Year Free! How States Are Trying to Fix a Broken Childcare System,” NPR, 2022.07.13].

Or maybe we could follow New Mexico’s lead and work toward providing universal publicly-funded childcare:

New Mexico is using federal pandemic aid to dramatically expand subsidies, making childcare free not just for low income families but also those well into the middle-class.

…But that expanded free childcare — as with so much other childcare spending around the country — is set to end next summer, when the federal aid stops. Many advocates worry that will bring more pain for providers and parents.

New Mexico hopes to cushion the blow. In fact, its pandemic spending is part of a long-term project aimed at “building a universal, high-quality, and family-centered early childhood system,” says Elizabeth Groginsky, the state’s Secretary for Early Childhood Education.

As a next step, this fall a ballot measure will ask voters to OK use of a share of the state’s oil and gas revenues to permanently fund early education [Ludden, 2022.07.13].

See, Kristi? If you and your circle would stop watching Fox News all the time and try listening to NPR, you might actually catch some good policy ideas.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-07-13

    Oil and gas proceeds are to New Mexico like video lootery is to South Dakota: we’re both addicted to destructive elements with mixed results for families raising students. But we’re succeeding in funding youth retention while talent is South Dakota’s costliest export.

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