DES MOINES, Iowa – On average, an Iowa family with an infant and a toddler pays nearly $18,000 a year for child care.
That’s roughly 30 percent of the average family’s income, and more than the average cost of college tuition in the state.
Representatives from Progress Iowa, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and two labor unions joined former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in Des Moines this week to call attention to the high cost of child care, and to ask the presidential candidates to address the issue.
“Basically, right now, child care is completely out of reach for the vast majority of working and middle class families across the country, particularly in Iowa,” says Sarah Baron, manager of the child care and preteen campaign for the Center for American Progress. “This isn’t just an issue for kids, it’s not just a women’s issue. You know, all presidential candidates need to be held accountable for addressing this issue. ”
Beyond expressing concern, the groups are calling on the presidential candidates to specifically address how they would ease this burden on working families.
The unions that are part of the coalition are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Baron says a new Public Policy Polling survey of Iowans indicates great concern about child care issues.
“Seventy-four percent of caucus goers say that child care is an economic necessity for working families,” she points out. “And 70 percent say that child care is too expensive and out of reach.”
Baron notes this is a bipartisan issue, with more than half of Republicans surveyed saying it needs to be addressed by the candidates.
Using federal resources to improve child care prices and quality may cost money now, but Baron says it would pay high dividends later.
“These are a huge return on investment when investing in kids and putting them in high quality child care down the road,” he states. “You know, those parents need to go to work. They need to have a safe, high quality place for their kids to be.”
The coalition is just one group using the week before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential precinct caucuses to highlight issues of importance to voters.