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Childcare needs support of future Bremerton mayor
The parents of children at Kitsap Child Care and Preschool were concerned about the number of daycares closing recently and we wanted a way to express our concerns and noticed the mayoral candidates were having forums about business and jobs, but we didn’t see one that focused on childcare or issues of families with young children. So we invited the candidates and held a forum, if not to solve the issue of childcare, to at least give it some attention. Hosting a forum is a bigger endeavor than I imagined, my goal was to have 100 parents show up and I didn’t get that, but thank you to Harborside Starbucks and Albertsons which donated coffee and cookies for the event. Thanks also to staff who provided free childcare to those parents that brought their children. And thank you to the candidates who were present.
Sheriff Steve Boyer and Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend recently wrote of the importance of quality preschool and reducing crime (July 3, guest column). The mayoral candidates echoed preschools’ importance on that issue alone. They mentioned the importance of maintaining high standards so that preschool is more than just putting children in front of the TV, but about encouraging them to play and develop social skills that are needed in kindergarten and beyond. There are 2,242 slots for childcare in Bremerton which sounds like a lot, but infant care is lacking as are slots for evenings and weekends. The site director for Teletech also attended the forum. He doesn’t live in Bremerton and doesn’t have children in Bremerton childcare, but when I asked him why he came he said it was a big concern for his employees and a very important issue for his business.
Also, the questions of good employees who can’t get raises or work too many hours because if they do they will make too much and get their funding for daycare cut off and won’t be able to afford it. The state provides funds for 62 percent of those who attend Kitsap Child Care and Preschool, but that amount isn’t the full cost of caring for a child. So, parents who don’t get support and extra grants are needed to make up the difference.
Lowering costs of utilities and background checks and other costs for daycares and schooling costs for those who get accredited and degrees in childcare were mentioned, but with no easy answers on how that will happen were given. A few specific things were mentioned, but mostly the mayor is often a big cheerleader getting companies and governments to bring projects here and they pledged to do the same for childcare. In 2006, the wage for the middle half of all childcare workers was between $7.11 and $10.54. Some people had questions on whether or not childcare centers unionize. Keeping quality people to care for our children with such wages is really hard. The USDA says people spend $8,770 in the region that included Kitsap County to raise a 1-year-old and many factors can raise or lower that amount.
Another complaint was not enough things to do for young children on the weekends. But as you can see, there were a lot of things to discuss in one hour and afterwards audience members pressed the candidates one-on-one. And that’s what I encourage you to do. All the candidates have worked hard to make Bremerton and Kitsap a better place. Find the candidate, twist their arm and let them know your issue and your solution to helping fix childcare and make Bremerton a better place.