Being a childcare provider in 2020 has taken a turn that no one saw coming. These last seven months have felt like 10 years, and yet the days seem to all blend together in a fast-paced, exhausting way.
Every day, each of us teachers and directors wonders, “is today the day someone gets the virus? Is this month going to get us more children enrolled so we don’t have to close down? Will my hours get cut again? Am I going to be able to keep my job?” Each one of us is searching for hope, relief, and normalcy. Looking at what enrollment was like back in February seems like a distant, far-off memory and at the same time a new goal to reach that seems impossible. We want good news, and we don’t know how much more negativity we can take.
Approaching the election season is always one that comes with questions, excitement, and hope. This particular election, though, seems to bring more anxiety and worry than any other in recent history. The United States has never been more divided on so many issues, and the idea of where all of this division can take early childhood education can be just plain scary.
ECE is a Bipartisan Issue
No matter which candidate you are voting for, we can all agree that early childhood education needs to be supported more than ever before by whomever wins office. Even before the pandemic, childcare had been on the decline in terms of affordability and accessibility for the average family. Teachers in early childhood are among the lowest paid in the country while tuition is the highest. During the pandemic, childcare centers were forced to close and incur a lot of debt, some of which made them not able to recover. There has been a substantial amount of aid available to apply for, but not every center qualified or even knew about them. According to US News and World Report, 18% of childcare centers have remained closed, and on average enrollment is down by 67% for those who remain open.
This information is not to alarm you more. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and what it comes down to is perspective. No matter which candidate wins, our perspective as caregivers needs to be positive and realistic.
Even though early childhood education tends to be more of a local government concern, the results from the upcoming election can definitely affect some of the issues that early childhood education faces. Issues such as public preschool, increasing tax credit, relief funding from COVID-19, funding for vaccinations, and increasing salaries for early childhood educators can all affect how each of us operates.
What Are the Candidates’ Stances on ECE?
Every care provider agrees that every child deserves an equal opportunity with education. Since statistics show how important early childhood education is, it is no contest that every child should have access. The path to getting that education is where both political parties differ.
Financial Relief for Families
Donald Trump will be fighting for tax credits for each family to use toward tuition so that low income families can have access.
Joe Biden will be fighting for free public preschool and PreK as well as tax credit for families who have infants and toddlers. There are pros and cons to public education, but both sides do want to provide funding so that all children can go to preschool.
Financial Relief for Businesses
Both candidates promise to continue to provide relief through funding to regain composure from the shutdown due to the coronavirus. This is a “pro” in terms of helping centers and in-home providers bounce back a little easier knowing that they will have funds provided that they do not have to repay. Joe Biden’s amount that he proposes to give for relief is around $775 billion and seems to be a lot more than Donald Trump’s, however, that could create a negative impact on the debt in our country if we are thinking of the long-term effects.
Both candidates believe that teachers are underpaid. Joe Biden promises to increase the wages of early childhood educators to help secure consistency in early childhood programs and lower turnover. He also promises to help caregivers gain more professional development and training. This is all great for the childcare giver, although it may be hard on the childcare industry since it will most likely require minimum wage to go up. This will, in turn, cause for an increase in tuition to help cover the costs.
Donald Trump has not revealed the specifics as to how he would go about this but has shown interest in increasing wages.
When it comes to finding a vaccine for coronavirus, Donald Trump is promising to have every American vaccinated by June. He has also been very vocal about who would be the first to receive the vaccination, which would be the most at risk and vulnerable as well as the front line workers. This quite possibly means that children will be among the last to receive the vaccine, which will greatly affect the childcare industry where children are being forced to wear masks all day long and continue to social distance and miss out on key elements to proper development.
While Biden promises to allocate $25 billion toward finding a vaccine, he does not give a promised date of expectation on it. Both candidates want a vaccine, which would in the long run help childcare centers to be able to operate activities in a safe and developmentally appropriate way.
What You Can Do
Ultimately, your perspective of this election is what will make all the difference. Helping the children in your care to know they are loved and showing that you can be adaptable is the most important thing you can do as a provider. Do you miss sensory bins, dress up, special assemblies, and field trips? Of course you do! We all do! But, we have to know and believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel where we will be able to do those things again. In the meantime, we will continue to be resilient, creative, and loving care givers who help each child know that they can still grow like a lotus flower – the only flower to be able to grow through the muck and mud!
Talk to area childcare providers and find out what they are doing to make things work.Is there a training seminar going on where you can learn about what is going on? Is there PPE being given away in your county that you don’t know about? Make sure that you are networking with other educators and providers so that you can learn from each other. Share your new policies, handbooks, and tricks. We need to be a community during this.
Apply for All Grants!
Find out what grants are available in your county and apply! Take the time to do this. There is so much funding available right now, and some centers don’t even know about it. (My center has received over $55,000 in grant money so far, and it just required time to apply!)
Shift Your Focus
Instead of focusing on what doom will await us depending on which candidate wins, focus on the children in your classroom who are looking to you for assurance, love, and security. We all miss “the good old days” from a few months ago, and we all are going through a little bit of PTSD. But we must move forward, even at a snail’s pace. Our ultimate objective is to provide safe and loving care; so DO THAT!
Get Rest and Self Care
Statistics show that most Americans are overwhelmed and have reached their limits emotionally. Be sure to get more sleep and take care of yourself. Stop reading hours worth of election information. Stop watching every news outlet to see who you should be voting for or against. Stop getting caught up on social media where everyone thinks their opinion is fact. Stop reading articles like this! Just kidding, keep reading 😉
I know I just said to stop researching, but when it does come time to vote, please do it. Whether it is from home, early, or in person on November 3, show up. The children we care for can’t vote yet, but we can be their voice. So make your decision, stand by it, and go do it. I’m not here to tell you who to vote for; that’s for another blog – but I am here to encourage you to take advantage of that right and make it count.
Remember, no matter what – there is hope. Keep smiling, keep showing up, and keep loving on those kids. Even if those sweet children can’t see the smile under that mask, your eyes tell the story. So smile with those eyes, rockstar. Together, we can do this, no matter who sits in that oval office. No matter the outcome, early childhood education will still continue in excellence because that’s what we do.
For more insight into the state of the child care industry, see the HiMama Benchmark Report!