When I talk to my friends who have children and they tell me how much child care costs, I cringe. Often the figures they throw out resemble the price tag of tuition.
According to Child Care Aware of America, the average price of center-based infant child care in Ohio is indeed nearly the same as the average annual tuition and fees at a public four-year college or university, costing $10,009 compared to $10,790. The cost of child care for an infant and a 4-year-old averages at $18,267 per year at a center.
A 2016 recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said families shouldn’t spend more than 7% of their income on child care, but there’s no state in the country where parents can follow that recommendation, a 2018 analysis by Child Care Aware of America found.
In Ohio, the analysis shows single parents pay 43.8% of their income for center-based infant child care. Married parents of two children living at the poverty line pay 62.6% of their household income for center-based child care. Even a married couple with one infant in Ohio fail the 7% guideline, paying 11% at a center. Two children bumps it up to 20.1%.
Meanwhile, Groundwork Ohio estimated that nationally, businesses lose $12.7 billion because of “their employee’s child care challenges.”
Leaders of the bipartisan Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus met with organizations and advocates this week to talk about the state of Ohio’s child care system, and how state leaders can improve it, OCJ reported Wednesday.
Kimberly Tice, executive director of the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children, said she has heard of child care workers turning down raises to preserve their eligibility for assistance with their own children, because the raise would not account for the costs of child care.
When we shared the story on social media, one child care worker spoke up to confirm this:
Hey this is me, I might literally cut my own paid hours just so I can definitely get Medicaid again… Really sucks.
— GangofGreenhorns #GeneralStrike (@GangofH) April 21, 2021
Child care is getting more expensive faster by some measures than almost every other consumer good or service that the government tracks, The Atlantic has reported. The U.S. Census Bureau has found that child-care expenditures rose more than 40% between 1990 and 2011, and since the 1990s, child-care costs have grown twice as fast as overall inflation.
A bipartisan bill to bring up eligibility numbers for child care is currently sitting in the Ohio House Families, Aging and Human Services Committee, where dozens of groups and individuals have submitted testimony in support of the bill.
House Bill 145 would bring the publicly funded child care assistance eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level, which supporters say would incentivize working families who could meet basic needs while also getting their children needed care.
This is a start, though I’d argue even more support is needed alongside paid family leave. High-quality, dependable, and affordable child care for children of all ages is critically important, especially as having both parents working is an economic necessity for many families.
Too many Ohio families are finding themselves in an untenable situation. But it takes a village to raise a child, they say. It’s time for the state to start pulling its weight.
David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.
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