You Pay How Much for Child Care?

Every parent in Washington State wants quality learning opportunities for their kids and every provider wants to provide quality care for each child in their classrooms.

The question is: who bears the cost?

Pressure on providers and parents to bear this cost is unsustainable. In 2016, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Families said child care should cost families no more than 7 percent of their income. Yet, many families in Washington State are spending up to 30 percent or more.

According to report published by Childcare Aware in 2016, Washington State was the seventh least affordable state for center based infant, toddler and four-year-old care.

According to the same report, Washington ranked second (infants) and fourth (toddlers) least affordable state for family child care.

The problems of unaffordability and lack of access are continuing to get worse. Child care business revenues are down. Early childhood educator wages are extremely low, averaging $27,800 annually statewide, causing an exodus from the workforce. Washington’s early learning centers and family homes experience a 43 percent annual turnover rate of educators, which impacts continuity of care and child outcomes.

A recent study on the Cost of Quality published by the Department of Children Youth and Families (formerly the department of early learning) found that teacher turnover negatively impacts quality.

We all benefit from high quality child care and early learning. It means that kids are more prepared for opportunities in school and life. And the availability of child care for working parents impacts their success at work and the health of our economy.

Senator Patty Murray has introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act and is working hard at the national level to help every child succeed and achieve their dreams. Murray’s proposal starts with high quality early learning. Every working parent should have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are being cared for in a safe and nurturing environment.

But we cannot wait for Congress to act. Washington State must contribute more to support the affordability and quality of childcare and early learning, including better compensation for the early childhood educator workforce. If educator compensation is not increased soon, we will not have a stable and qualified workforce and will not have child care for working families.

For too long, band-aids have been put on this system, and the core issue, low compensation, has gone unaddressed.

The status quo is no longer acceptable. It is well past time to take significant action for our children, and our economic future.

To learn more about EOI’s work in early learning and what you can do to support increased compensation for early childhood educators and affordability for families, please contact Sarah Clark at

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