Michigan child care providers demand more money to provide a livable wage
The child care providers marched up and down Grand Boulevard in Detroit, chanting “No child care, no work” and other messages they hope will reach state officials with the power to address their demands.
“What do we want?” the woman with the megaphone asked the crowd.
“More money!” the crowd shouted.
“When do we want it? the leader asked.
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The “Day Without Childcare Rally,” which took place outside the Cadillac Building, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a Detroit office, was held with the hope that state officials would include even more money for child care than has already been proposed in budget negotiations.
More than 100 people showed up for the Detroit protest. Similar demonstrations were happening across the U.S.
The demonstrators — a mix of child care and preschool providers, educators, and parents — say they appreciate Whitmer’s efforts to invest more heavily in child care, but they say it’s not enough. Whitmer’s budget proposal includes a tax credit of $1,000 to $3,000 for early childhood educators who work in child care, preschool, and after-school settings.
A spokesperson for Whitmer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Whitmer has also proposed expanding the Great Start Readiness Program, the state’s free preschool program that currently serves mostly children from low-income families. The expansion would give thousands more 4-year-olds access to the program.
Among the demonstrators’ demands is additional funding so they can pay workers a living wage and an end to the state’s rating system for child care programs that assigns a star rating based on quality.
The national effort is pushing for an equitable child care system, thriving wages for providers, and affordable child care for all families.
Protesters in Detroit say providers struggle to pay their staff and themselves a living wage.
“In this line of work, I have to get paid in hugs and kisses because my families can’t afford to pay me adequate money to sustain myself,” said Makese Taylor, a licensed child care provider who operates Twins Hands with her sister.
“It leaves me part of the working poor,” Taylor said.
Another common message: Michigan’s economy can’t recover from the pandemic if the state’s system for providing care for children while their parents are at work isn’t healthy.
“Without child care, the economy can’t go,” Hodge said. “We should never be an afterthought.”
Michigan’s child care system has struggled to provide quality care for parents who need it, and to recruit and retain staff. A 2022 Muckrock report found that Michigan has far more child care deserts — regions of the state with too few facilities to meet demand — than policymakers estimated.
Earlier this year, a Chalkbeat story noted that Whitmer’s proposal to expand the free preschool program would need to address staffing shortages. Low wages are at the heart of the staffing challenges.
Wilkes came to the protest Monday because “our voices need to be heard” and so state officials understand the need for all families to have access to child care.
Many of the providers who participated in the protest shut down their facilities for the day, hoping that action would also send a message.
“We need them to hear us,” Taylor said.
Tichina Sanders, a child care teacher at Hodge’s facility, wants lawmakers to understand how essential her work is.
“We’re not just babysitters to kids,” said Sanders, who makes $13 an hour. “I’m helping them learn.”
Lori Higgins is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Detroit. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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