Officials Discuss the Importance and Challenges of Early Child Care and Education

Officials toured Danville Child Development Center’s Wall St. facility recently and discussed issues related the availability and affordability of quality early child care and education. Pictured (left to right): Kurt Masser, State Representative; Jeff Emanuel, Chamber Foundation Director; Angela Mattis, Montour County District Attorney; David Millard, State Representative; Jennifer Wakeman, DRIVE Executive Director; and John Gordner, State Senator.

While quality child care and education has short and long term benefits for the workforce and society in general, many parents struggle to find programs for their children. To keep care affordable, quality providers rely on public funding and other sources of revenue. Cost containment makes it a challenge for providers to hire and retain qualified staff, and results in waiting lists for families. Officials discussed some of these issues during a recent visit to Danville Child Development Center (DCDC).

State Senator John Gordner and Representatives Kurt Masser and David Millard joined representatives of the Chamber, its Foundation, DRIVE, and Montour County District Attorney Angela Mattis on a tour of DCDC’s Wall Street, Danville facility. Lori McDonnell, DCDC’s Enrollment Director, highlighted the variety of developmental programs that pre-K children participate in throughout the 12 months of operation. Teachers at the facility have at least their Bachelor’s Degree and are certified.

Following the tour, Diana Verbeck, DCDC Executive Director, talked about the challenges of keeping costs affordable for families while maintaining a quality program, which includes staff. Even families that do not receive subsidies through the state do not pay the full cost for their child’s care. DCDC and similar providers rely on grants, donations, and fundraisers to make up the difference for their operating costs. Verbeck pointed out that Governor Wolf’s proposed increases to early child education are a shift of Federal funds, and not an overall increase in funding.

These challenges result in an inadequate availability of quality child care providers, which impacts working families and businesses. In some cases, one parent must stay at home in order to care for their children. Even for those parents that rely on family or others to look after their children, disruptions can significantly impact workplace productivity. A study (link to: http://paearlylearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-04-ELIC-RN-report-FINAL.pdf) released in April 2019 illustrates the negative economic impacts of insufficient child care on Pennsylvania’s economy.  

A lack of quality early education can also significantly hinder the success of a child. Without proper care at a young age, children are at a much higher risk of not developing good socialization and other soft skills. Angela Mattis, Montour County’s District Attorney, reinforced the value of a nurturing environment at a young age in helping young people from having issues in the legal system.

The Early Learning Investment Committee of Columbia and Montour Counties, facilitated by the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counites, brings together providers, businesses, and parents to increase awareness of these issues and identify opportunities to support working families and the area’s economy. The Chamber has been represented on the Committee since it was formed. For more information, or to get involved, contact the United Way at 570-784-3134.