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Statewide protests call on CT legislators to boost child care support

Early childcare educators and parents rally on the New Haven Green on April 10, 2024, calling for more funding for the state’s early learning system. “To me, children are the future. And if we do not fix childcare, we are setting up our future for failure,” said Kristen Calderon (left), a teacher at the Friends Center for Children.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Early childcare educators and parents rally on the New Haven Green on April 10, 2024, calling for more funding for the state’s early learning system. “To me, children are the future. And if we do not fix childcare, we are setting up our future for failure,” said Kristen Calderon (left), a teacher at the Friends Center for Children.

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Child care workers, families and children rallied around Connecticut Wednesday to demand that lawmakers approve more funding to buoy the sector.

The first of ten “Morning Without Child Care'' events was in downtown New Haven. The mood was cheery, yet serious, as child care workers, kids, and families bypassed their normal mornings to come together and ask the state for more child care investments.

Advocates called for more funds, both in the state budget, and long-term — including passage of a proposed bill that would invest millions into the sector.

“It's not easy to be here and ask for help. We shouldn't have to be here asking for help,” Rondraya Barron, a parent, and teacher at Friends Center for Children. “I'm living paycheck to paycheck anticipating the next pay day, and we need more money.”

Insufficient wages are part of the nationwide issue feeding into the child care crisis, according to the Center for American Progress. And while many care centers have the physical capacity to support more children, data from the United Way of Connecticut shows there aren’t enough workers in the state to safely meet demand.

The proposal passed out of committee with bipartisan support, and awaits further legislative action.

Early childcare educators and parents rally on the New Haven Green to advocate for more funding for the state’s early learning system on April 10, 2024. “As a coalition, we’re demanding for more. We need politicians and elected officials to understand that more doesn’t mean a band-aid of $43 million a year, more means looking at long-term investments of $1 billion plus,” said Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman, coalition director for Childcare for Connecticut’s Future, who spoke to the crowd at the rally.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Early childcare educators and parents rally on the New Haven Green to advocate for more funding for the state’s early learning system on April 10, 2024. “As a coalition, we’re demanding for more. We need politicians and elected officials to understand that more doesn’t mean a band-aid of $43 million a year, more means looking at long-term investments of $1 billion plus,” said Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman, coalition director for Childcare for Connecticut’s Future, who spoke to the crowd at the rally.

A spokesperson for Gov. Ned Lamont said the administration is “strongly supportive of expanding Connecticut’s early childhood education system” and that the governor is encouraging the legislature to approve the $43.3 million increase for early childhood education outlined in this year’s budget proposal.

“We are concerned that as structured, this spending would be taken off budget, and not subjected to the scrutiny and review of the regular appropriations process, thereby circumventing the fiscal guardrails which were renewed by the legislature last year,” Beth Bye, commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, wrote in public testimony.

Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman, coalition director for Child Care for Connecticut’s Future, said approval of the bill would be a step towards fully funding the childcare system.

“Child care is in crisis. We need a long term plan, rather than floating around that money year after year after year,” Bermúdez Zimmerman said.

Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter voiced support for the bill at a press conference on March 28. Ritter said solving Connecticut's child care problems won’t happen "in one year or one session,” but that bills like this help start those conversations.

Wednesday’s day of action wasn’t just in New Haven – rallies were heldin 10 different areas of Connecticut, with over a thousand people signed up to participate, organizers said.

“Us educators have to do it all. We are administrators, social workers, confidantes and we are some second parents to most children,” said Rondraya Barron with Friends Center for Children. “The investment we put into child care as educators is priceless.”

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.
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