A school district in Oklahoma plans to run a low-cost child-care center next school year for district personnel as part of an effort to attract teachers.
“We have a teacher shortage in Oklahoma,” said Randy Rader, superintendent of elementary education for Enid Public Schools. “We compete with several surrounding districts for teachers, so anything we can do as a recruitment and a retention tool, then we want to try to provide that for our teachers.”
Employees will be expected to pay $125 a week for infants, and $100 a week for children a year and older. The center is expected to save teachers and other participating personnel about $200 a month in child-care costs.
Administrators say the district, which includes 17 schools, struggles with hiring. This year it has about 30 emergency-certified teachers. The district is about 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City in a city that had a little more than 50,000 residents in 2017.
Rader says it’s not unusual for the district to lose younger teachers as they begin to start families.
“A lot of times they can afford to have one child in day care, but once they start having that second one in day care it’s almost as cheap for them just to stop teaching for a while,” said Rader. “We’re hoping to provide a high-quality day care where they feel secure, and they don’t have to do that.”
Expected Child-Care Costs
The district won’t be looking to make a profit with its child-care center, which will be located at a school. It will be used as strictly an employee benefit.
The initiative is expected to cost $5,000 to $10,000 to launch, but Rader, who says he’s been pushing the district to offer this service for years, contends that it will be worth it since recruitment of a new teacher costs $3,000.
Simon Workman, director of early-childhood policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, praised the district’s idea as a good way to help teachers and other employees stay in the workforce when faced with the high cost of child care. He said Oklahoma families can expect to pay 20 percent of their income on child care for infants, while the federal definition of affordable child care is to spend no more than 7 percent of annual income.
“It’s definitely something that we see as a huge barrier for parents who are trying to get into the workforce, who are trying to stay in the workforce,” said Workman. “The need to find affordable, quality child care is definitely a huge need. Anything that employers can do to help employees with that need is definitely something we’re very supportive of and think is very positive.”
While Workman supports this initiative by Enid Public Schools, a small district of about 8,000 students, he expressed some reservations about a larger district taking on a similar project.
“I would worry about a large school district saying, ‘We can offer child care but only to our employees, only to our teachers,’” said Workman. “What does that do to the broader child-care market in that city, for instance?”
Rather than disrupt the current child-care market, he suggested larger districts provide support to help teachers afford what’s currently available or open up their child-care programs, if they have them, to more than just their own employees.
For his part, Rader is excited about what providing child-care facilities will mean for his district. He says employee surveys have shown a big demand for such services, with some teachers calling the idea a real game changer that would allow them to stay in the classroom.
“We think it’s a great opportunity,” said Rader. “We try to make our place of work as user-friendly for our employees as possible, and we just think this is one way we can do it.”
Photo by Getty
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.