As of January 1, 2013, child care programs designated as “5-star” programs with Wisconsin’s new YoungStar quality rating system got a boost of up to a 25% higher reimbursement rate for low income families on the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program. If you’re like me, your first thought might be, “Wow, that’s a really big jump and if they’ve already reached 5 stars they probably have more resources than my program has ever had! We need to focus on bringing the rest of us up; we’re really trying but need more help and money to get there…”
My second thought, however, is: “Congratulations 5-star programs. You’re paving the way for the rest of us and leading us toward where we need to be.” All of us, regardless of star level, need to acknowledge that it not only takes money to get to high quality, but it will take money to stay there! Sustaining our quality improvement efforts will be our on-going challenge.
For most programs, certainly for 5-star programs, the biggest investment so far has been in staff education, and if a program does not have the resources to retain its well-educated staff, it can quickly drop from a 5-star status. Despite more than a decade of research that links compensation to child care quality, public policy has produced little in terms of a solution. Perhaps we’ve just landed on a policy that actually impacts compensation!
What do you think? Could YoungStar be part of the solution to low wages in our field? We’d love to hear your comments.
This blog post is the first in a series of three posts authored by Peggy Haack, WECA Staff and former coordinator of the National Worthy Wage Campaign, Center for the Child Care Workforce.