AUSTIN, Texas — Across the nation, early childhood educators rallied for the National Day of Action for Child Care which calls on Congress to pass funding to help create equitable and affordable early childhood care.
"No justice, no peace, child care funding needs to increase," were some of the chants by demonstrators at the steps of the Texas Capitol.
The group of educators say they're rallying for a cause bigger than themselves.
"We believe child care justice is reproductive justice," said Britanya Bays.
"I had to balance whether I could pay for food for my family and where I can pay for food for the childcare program," she said. Bays says she is one of many who were forced to close their childcare program because of the pandemic and inflation.
According to the Center for American Progress, the median wage for child care workers in Texas is $11.24 an hour.
"I can't keep asking my amazing teachers to work for less than if they were working at McDonald's and they don't have the stress of educating," said the Owner of Amiguitos Spanish Immersion Academy, Mary Morales.
Morales said she's stuck in a difficult spot trying to decide between raising tuition at her Austin-based academy by 13% to pay staff a competitive wage, or lose them.
"The parents can't afford to pay anymore because it's already expensive," said Morales. "We need this funding."
President Biden's Build Back Better plan initially contained $400 billion for programs like childcare and universal pre-k, but that provision didn't make it through Congress.
Senate Democrats could bring the issue back up in separate legislation soon. Supporters said that could ease a significant burden for child care providers and parents.
In some cases, providers went on strike by shutting their doors or calling in sick Monday. Supporters say child care providers have been hit hard by the pandemic "coming off of decades of underinvestment and unappreciation for their essential role in the local economy."
They also say that there are around half a million families who have been looking for child care but are unable to find it.
“Our economy runs on child care. We are taking action on May 9 to urge elected officials at all levels of government to invest in equitable access to affordable child care, guaranteeing access for every family who needs it and a living wage for early childhood educators,” said Wendoly Marte, economic justice director for Community Change Action.
A recent survey sponsored by the organization suggests that, regardless of political viewpoints, voters agree the nation should raise wages for the early care and education workforce.
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