Although Michigan has started to address its long-neglected child care system, the state has a long way to go to make high-quality child care affordable and easily accessible, especially for low- and moderate-income working parents.
That is the conclusion of a new report on child care assistance policies.
Michigan now rates licensed child care providers on a scale of 0 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest quality early learning experience for children.
Under the new reimbursement system, providers can receive an additional 25 cents per hour for a three-star program, 50 cents per hour for a four-star program, and 75 cents for a five-star program.
Higher rates for higher quality makes sense, and is an important step forward. The goal is to give parents reliable and affordable child care, as well as peace of mind while they work to support their families. For children, the goal is to provide daily learning experiences that take advantage of that brief window of time when their brains are developing rapidly, affecting their chances of achieving in school and beyond.
The reality is that Michigan’s child care system still falls far short, as outlined in a recent League report:
- As of early October, 80% of Michigan’s licensed child care providers had zero stars in the child care rating system, meaning that they only met baseline licensing requirements, and were not eligible for higher rates under the new reimbursement system.
- Least likely to be eligible for higher rates are the more affordable family child care homes, with less than 4% having 3 or more stars.
- Michigan continues to have some of the lowest child care subsidy eligibility levels in the country. While over two-thirds of the states increased their income eligibility levels between 2013 and 2014, Michigan did not. In fact, eligibility levels fell from 178% of poverty in 2001 to 121% of poverty in 2014—a reduction of 57%.
With the second large expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program this year, Michigan continues to make strides for 4-year-olds.
Still left behind are the families who need to work but cannot find safe, affordable care for their infants and toddlers. Also left adrift are the state’s 3-year-olds, who are not eligible for the state-subsidized preschool that could help them get ready for school and develop the literacy skills needed for that important benchmark of reading by third grade.
It is time to turn our attention to the youngest learners in the state and their hard-working parents.
– Pat Sorenson