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Wisconsin is a Child Care Desert

Friday, June 2nd, 2023 -- 11:01 AM

(By Corrinne Hess, Wisconsin Public Radio) Over half of Wisconsin is in a child care desert, meaning for every open child care slot available in a community, there are three or more children who need it,  according to a report by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association.

According to Corrinne Hess with Wisconsin Public Radio, in Wisconsin, 288,430 children have a potential need for child care. There are 171,040 slots, according to the same report. At the same time, child care isn’t affordable.

The average two-income household is spending 17 percent of their income on child care for one child. That’s more than what most people are paying for their children to go to college, according to a recent report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

For the last three years, Wisconsin child care providers have been buoyed by a federal pandemic relief program that helped them improve pay for their employees while keeping tuition costs for families down. In June, funding for that program, called Child Care Counts, will be cut in half and new restrictions will be put into place.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers included $340 million in his 2023-25 Wisconsin state budget to stabilize the program. As the budget makes its way through the Republican-controlled Legislature, so far that funding remains in the budget.

But it's seen as at risk, and preserving the funding is the subject of a statewide letter-writing campaign among child care professionals and advocates. The shortages in Wisconsin of affordable child care options predate this budget battle, and no one thinks this year's state budget will solve them. That often leaves parents with impossible decisions.

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