Lack of affordable, quality child care in Lubbock stifling busin - FOX34 Lubbock

Lack of affordable, quality child care in Lubbock stifling businesses

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

New research indicating a lack of affordable, quality child care in Lubbock is hurting businesses, as 45 percent of parents miss work to child care disruptions over six months, according to a report by the "Children at Risk" organization.

Shay Everitt, with Children at Risk, said more than 4,200 children with low-income working parents do not have access to proper child care in Lubbock. 

"This is important because affordable, quality child care helps build children's brain during their most critical years of brain development to help them be school-ready and ready for life later in the workforce. And it also helps parents go to work right now," Everitt said.

The report showed this lack of care costs U.S. businesses $8.3 billion each year, and Martin Aguirre, CEO of Workforce Solutions South Plains, said something needs to change. 

"Our Texas businesses lose billions of dollars every year to working parents that don't have care because they have to miss work or staying at home. And we know it's expensive," Aguirre said.

The report indicated child care costs 12-thousand dollars a year for the average family in Lubbock, or about a quarter of their income, and Everitt said businesses must invest in this issue if they want to see the next generation of quality workers. 

"If they want reliable workers, a skilled workforce, someone who shows up on time, can listen to instruction, be a good employee and get along with others, those are all skills that begin to develop in the earliest years, if you are in quality settings," Everitt said.

Aguirre said one of the biggest concerns is child care workers are paid poverty-level wages, creating a shortage of quality instructors. 

"I get very concerned about the child care center workers because they're not compensated well enough. They're taking care of our most precious investment and yet we're paying them the least of all the systems, so the foundation is not being strongly built," Aguirre said.

As a result, Carolyn Simpson, with Lubbock Area United Way, said this creates a lack of stability in child care centers.

"We have a high turnover rate with teachers and that's a problem for our children because we know that turnover rate decreases the quality, which then decreases what the children are getting from the childcare," Simpson said.

The report found only four percent of all child care providers are certified quality by the Texas Rising Star program, and from birth through age three, a child's brain builds its foundation for early learning.

Simpson said if quality child care is not prioritized, the future workforce may be in peril. 

"Here in Lubbock, we do need to do more to ensure that we have high quality childcare, which then translates into more school-ready children, and we can do that through a more qualified childcare workforce," Simpson said. 

Data is showing Texas may be behind the eight ball in this effort. 

"Native-born Texans have lower levels of educational attainment than Texans who came from other states, so it's showing that other states are doing a better job of preparing their children to succeed after high school when Texas is falling short," Everitt said.

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