OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Nearly half of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are considered child care deserts. Now lawmakers are looking at ways to make child care more accessible.
“Everybody needs child care, so it needs to be strengthened,” stated Rep. Suzanne Schreiber.
Rep. Schreiber led an interim study at the State Capitol with the focus on how to make child care not only accessible, but affordable in Oklahoma.
“I think the state of Oklahoma is ready to take this issue head on and start solving some problems,” said Schreiber.
“55% of the state’s population lives in a child care desert,” said Carrie Williams, Executive director for the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR).
Williams said one of the biggest barriers in child care is lack of qualified staffing.
“We need to bolster scholarships for early care and education professionals, encourage degree completion with wage supplements to tax credits,” said Williams.
The worker shortage is causing waitlists and preventing parents from getting their kids into child care.
“We as owners of a child care industry, are forced to interpret stringent requirements but are restricted from compensating them accordingly,” said Mattece Mason, owner of a childcare facility.
Although she’s grateful her facility has received state funds, she said it’s not enough.
“In our already exasperated child care desert for teachers, for every teacher I lose, I lose up to 20 students that I can offer to other families,” said Mason.
Child care experts explained the best solution is the state must continually work to support and strengthen childcare facilities.
“It would be a huge help to childcare families to get an extra windfall on their taxes in the form of a refund,” added Mason.