A special session of the Wisconsin Legislature that was supposed to discuss the state’s childcare and worker shortage concerns was done within minutes on Wednesday, following the same fate as past special sessions called by Governor Tony Evers. The session was called by the Democratic governor to discuss a $1 billion proposal that would have kept the Child Care Counts program that has kept many facilities afloat since the pandemic permanent, created a paid family leave program, and put more towards the University of Wisconsin system programs. Evers called out Republicans for not filling out the nearly 30-question survey that he sent out last week, asking for all members of the Wisconsin Legislature to go on the record with their stance on the issues regarding workforce issues such as childcare and paid family leave. It was a likelihood predicted by Rep. Joel Kitchens shortly after the special session was announced, calling it a political stunt and adding he would rather have a conversation about it with the governor.
Wisconsin Republicans announced their plans to address child care in the state earlier this month, allowing parents to set up a pre-tax child care reimbursement account similar to ones currently used for health care, the creation of a loan fund for childcare facilities that wish to make upgrades, and loosen restrictions on adult staff-to-children ratios and the age of assistant child care providers from 17 to 16. Karen Corekin-DeLaMer from Northern Door Children’s Center in Sister Bay and United Way Childcare Coordinator Molly Gary both agreed that the childcare reimbursement account bill was a good idea if it was made available to all Wisconsin families. The other bills were met with less enthusiasm, especially when it came to increasing class sizes.
According to the Associated Press, Governor Evers called the Republican plans mostly ridiculous, but there might be some aspects he would approve. According to Forward Analytics, childcare costs average between 18 and 36 percent of a family’s income and the tuition for two kids at a childcare facility per year is more than what it is to send them to UW-Madison. The same study also showcased another area of concern: the number of childcare workers has declined 26 percent since 2010.