Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana Child Care Expensive, But Quality Is Improving

Children at Emerson Elementary School in Seymour participate in the Kindergarten prep program.

Children at Emerson Elementary School in Seymour participate in the Kindergarten prep program.

Lately, we’ve been writing a lot about little kids – how the new pre-k pilot will enroll more of them into a quality education early on, why encouraging their education from birth helps them down the road, and now, the high cost of putting a child in day care.

According to a report released this month by the Hamilton Project, single mothers in Indiana spend 27 percent of their earnings on childcare, the second highest in the country. And the first report from the state’s Early Learning Advisory Committee, a group of early education stakeholders appointed by Governor Pence according to legislation passed in 2013, echoes these sentiments. According to the report released June 30, 67 percent of children in the state require child care, yet for many families one-third of their income is used to pay for the care.

Helping low-income families and single parents pay for childcare is one of ELAC’s goals going into the next year, but the state of child care in Indiana is not all negative.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times last week, Courtney E. Martin praised the efforts of agencies in Indiana for helping parents be informed on child care decisions:

Indiana, recognizing that many people don’t have the time or desire to go to a physical center, created a centralized call service in 2012. Indiana’s friendly operators gather relevant information (the family’s home address, number of kids and their ages, how much parents can pay and what days they need help, their preferences regarding in home vs. stand-alone center vs. ministerial care, etc.) and then compile a customized list of good options for the caller which they can email or go over in real time on the phone. They can even read inspections with callers to be sure they understand the nature of violations.

These same operators also field any complaints, which further holds providers accountable between inspections, and helps worried parents find alternative care options as quickly as possible.

Legislation passed this session that implements stricter safety guidelines for day cares will go into effect soon. Teacher to child ratios, teacher training and increasing developmentally important activities are all rules providers must follow.

With the creation of ELAC and the preschool pilot program, the state is making strides toward better-quality, affordable early childhood education.

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