The Big Story Blog

How would you change child care in Minnesota?

Posted at 1:25 PM on November 16, 2011 by Paul Tosto

Make it more affordable. Build an online registry of all day-care providers. Get the governor out of the issue.

We're getting an earful from Minnesotans today about the state of child care and child care costs in Minnesota and what to do. We reached out overnight and this morning to citizens in our Public Insight Network for some perspective. We got plenty of thoughts and ideas on how to make the system better.

Marie Ljosenvoor of Maple Lake wants to see "more availability of public full-day preschool and kindergarten classes, with or without some parental cost available. It's hard to rely on one person for childcare because when our childcare provider is sick or her kids are, we get to take a sick day too."

Click on the map icons below to read suggestions and insight from around the state. Then add your voice.

View How would you change child care in Minnesota? in a full screen map

"I think more structured and published curriculum would be nice," said Rochester parent John Wallenfeldt. "Some places just seem to be a parking lot for kids to play. We should all be getting more for what we are paying. We should at least know what the kids are being introduced to."

Greg Hruby's idea of an online registry of all day care providers -- "down to those with as few as 2 non-familiy kids" -- was one of the more intriguing, concrete ideas.

"It could also serve as a search-for-services source for parents," he wrote us. "In addition an Angie's list form of ranking through the registry-site (comments vetted by a registry site staff) so there is some fresh-air on the process."

Gretchen Raymer of Circle Pines has worked in child care for more than ten years. She wrote:

I would like to see access to quality care for all families increased dramatically.

There are approx. 670,000 children between the ages of 0 and 12 in MN who need child care for some portion of their day. Currently there are approx. 205,000 licensed child care slots in MN. If we improved our CCAP program to expand our basic sliding fee CCA we could open more Child Care Centers, therefore, offering more employment. This would also help start more kids out on the right foot .

I think it is important to note the vital relationship between public funding for CCA and the impact it could have on the private sector. They go hand in hand, and politicians who want to improve our private sector should see the necessity for also stabilizing our ability to provide public funding for such things.

In northern Minnesota, Chris Cox of Cook urged some flexibility in rules for rural providers.

My wife provides childcare services as (an) unlicensed provider in the state. She chooses not to have a license because of some of the crazy requirements that have little to due with safety within a rural setting and the limits to the number of children she is allowed to watch.

The biggest changes I think would be in respect to the requirements for providers in different areas. The first example that jumps out at me is the requirement to have a fenced in play area. While extremely important in a city setting, we live on a rural road with an acre of yard devoted to play area; fencing this in would not be cost effective.

We also asked how people felt about Gov. Mark Dayton's order for a union election among home child care providers. Some, like Troy Smith of Esko, didn't think the governor had any business getting involved.

GET THE GOVERNOR OUT OF IT!!!!!!! THE STATE IS TOO FAR IN THE RED- HE NEEDS TO STAY IN HIS OFFICE AND WORK TO CUT COSTS, AND NOTHING ELSE.

Karen McCauley of St. Paul saw it differently.

I think that if day care workers want to unionize, they should be given the chance. There is always going to be an issue about the cost of childcare. We do not pay our care providers nearly what they deserve, but if we were to pay them what they deserve, very few people would be able to afford to work, ourselves included.

"As it is," she added, "the cost of our childcare is equivalent to our mortgage. And it is worth much, much more."


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.