SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Local providers are encouraged that the South Dakota legislature is considering holding a summer study to address the struggles of the child care industry. If lawmakers agree to the study, it would be the first legislative deep-dive on the issue in years.
Cynthia McConniel has run a state-licensed day care from her Sioux Falls home for 18 years. Some of her earliest young clients are now graduating high school.
“When I got their graduation announcements, I cried because it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ To see these kids all grown up and young adults now,” McConniel said.
But even well-established facilities like McConniel’s face challenges, including the rising cost of doing business, while at the same time keeping her service affordable for families.
“We have an increase in food costs and increase in utilities, our insurances go up and so trying to keep that so that can keep our prices fair for them,” McConniel said.
South Dakota child care advocates say talk of a legislative summer study shows that lawmakers from both parties are serious about addressing the struggles of both providers and parents.
“I have been advocating for well over a decade now and this is the most positivity I have seen within our state legislature towards child care,” Early Learner South Dakota Director Kayla Klein said.
Providers acknowledge that the problems facing their industry have been around for years. But they don’t see a summer study by the legislature as simply kicking the can down the road when it comes to finding solutions.
“Some centers might be like, ‘Hey, we’re months away from closing our doors.’ I don’t know. I know that some are facing more urgent needs than others,” McConniel said.
McConniel says it’s better for the legislature to take its time exploring child care solutions rather than rushing to decisions that solve nothing.
Klein says a summer study could result in a flurry of bills addressing child care to be filed in the South Dakota legislature next year. Besides making child care more affordable, she hopes lawmakers will look into the quality of care as well as workforce shortages.