Editorial: Child care shortage can cause unintended effects

Published 8:50 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

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The Albert Lea school district this week announced it will keep the Tiger Cub Child Care Center at Brookside Education Center open for another year.

We — and residents in the community — couldn’t be happier.

With already limited child care spaces available in the area, it would have been a hardship for many families if the facility closed its doors.

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Child care is critical for working parents and allows them to focus on their work with confidence that their children are being cared for adequately. When child care is not available, there is often an increase in absenteeism, which in turn affects productivity.

At the end of the day, some workers may have to quit their jobs to stay home with their children if they cannot find anywhere for them to be cared for.

If parents aren’t working, they may then have to utilize other services in the community to make ends meet, and the ripple effect continues from there.

In the case of the school district specifically, some of Albert Lea’s own teachers testified to the school board a few weeks ago that the Tiger Cub Child Care Center was one of the reasons they stayed with the district, and there’s no doubt it has been used as a recruitment and retention tool for others, too.

As the district moves forward now in the spring and forms a committee of city, county, school district, school board and parent representatives to come up with a long-term plan for child care in the county, we hope that anyone who has ideas will come to the table.

It will likely take collaboration from multiple groups to solve the child care shortage as a whole in the community through research, grant writing and looking to other communities who have found solutions to alleviate this issue.

Whether it’s places like Austin, which this spring is slated to see the opening of a new child care center for Hormel that would offer 130 spots, or the Lake Mills Community Preschool & Daycare, which originated as a child care center for employees of Fleetguard but now is a community-sponsored facility licensed for over 260 children, we’re sure there are many who might be willing to impart the knowledge they’ve gained from going through something similar.

It is also important to keep our state and federal representatives aware of the issues locally, as there could be opportunities they may become aware of as well.

Here are phone numbers to reach these representatives:

• U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar: 1-202-224-3244

• U.S. Sen. Tina Smith: 1-202-224-5641

• U.S. Rep. Brad Finstad: 1-202-225-2472

• District 23A Rep. Peggy Bennett: 651-296-8216

• District 23B Rep. Patricia Mueller: 651-296-4193

• District 23 Sen. Gene Dornink: 651-296-5240

We’ve seen what Albert Leans can do when they’ve put their minds together in times of unease before, and we have confidence they will be able to come up with solutions again.