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child care

It’s the agony of modern day parents: how to find and afford decent child care. This has become such a problem, the Washington Legislature has created a task force to tackle the issue.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

New regulations are in the works for child care centers and people who run day care out of their homes. Washington state aims to align rules for different categories of child care and improve the quality of care.

But some child care center owners are warning that the rules being considered will force them to charge parents more. Washington already ranks among the 10 least affordable states for child care.

One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, "Who's going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?"

Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care.

There are rating systems for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors. So why is it so hard to compare providers of child care?

Part of the reason is that there are no nationally agreed-upon standards for what determines the quality of child care. The standards that do exist are formulated in each state, and they vary widely.

For example, some states require that child care workers have a teaching certificate. Others require certain college courses. Some have strict ratios of how many caregivers are required per child.

seiuhealthcare775NW / Flickr

Seattle voters will have to choose between two ballot measures that both aim to help improve education for preschoolers, but in different ways.

The city’s plan, Proposition 1B, would set up a pilot program of subsidized preschool using a property tax levy.

The competing measure, Proposition 1A, is sponsored by two unions, Service Employees International Union Local 925 and American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers’ union affiliated with AFL-CIO.

Prop. 1A calls for a quicker path to a minimum wage of $15 an hour for child care teachers and would set a city policy that states no family should have to spend more than 10 percent of the household income on child care.

One other provision that’s drawn less attention is a plan to set up a system of training in which the unions would play a bigger role.