Local lawmakers, DCF discuss WI child care issues, solutions

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Child care or the lack thereof is a big problem facing a lot of parents.

Monday two local Democratic lawmakers talked about issues surrounding child care during a virtual round table.

State Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) and State Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) were joined by Dept. of Children & Families Secretary Emilie Amundson to discuss child care in Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ 2021/23 biennial budget.

The state’s goal is to find a sustainable, long-term solution to make child care equitable and inclusive for all families in the state.

To do this – issues surrounding access, affordability, quality, and the child care workforce are being addressed.

The budget would put $140 million toward the “Child Care Strong Program.”

It aims to reduce the high costs of care in addition to increasing provider’s wages.

“Early child care and education struggle to retain the excellent workforce they have. Folks are often needing to make a decision between continuing in a profession they love or going down the road to Kwik Trip and making a couple of dollars more per hour with excellent benefits. That’s a really difficult proposition,” DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson said during the round table.

According to Amundson, child care workers make between $10-13/hr and often do not receive good benefits.

Another area the state is investing in is expanding evidence-based programs – including $3 million for social emotional learning (SEL) to prevent kids from being expelled from early child care programs due to behavioral issues.