Childcare obstacles aired at ECAN

Childcare cost and availability, as well as what childcare workers are paid was part of the discussion during Wednesday’s Zoom Early Childhood Action Network meeting.

ECAN is an offshoot of the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin.

“I really think one of the elephants in the room is child care,” said Susan Lara, a grant writer for Ector County ISD. “There have been some child cares close down and there have been some child cares that are not operating at full capacity. People can’t go to work if they don’t have child care and they have young children, so I think that’s one of the reasons that we have some shortages (of workers) across the community because I really think we have to look at the issue of child care and how we offer that to our employees.”

Becca Myers of the Education Partnership said what they continue to hear is that organizations have the capacity to grow, but they don’t have the human capital for it.

Lara said fingerprinting was a barrier at one point.

“No child care in Odessa could get fingerprinting done for a while. If you can’t get paid until you get fingerprinted and you can’t get fingerprinted, you’re going to think about doing something else,” Lara said. “There’s a big dilemma in there with services and stuff.”

She added that the pay “isn’t there” for childcare workers.

Myers said she was in a webinar where chambers of commerce nationwide discussed the business aspect of childcare.

Lara said it’s helpful if people can be educated and level up in their careers.

Mercedes Ojeda, assistant program director of First 5 at University of Texas Permian Basin, said they aim to improve early childhood education in Ector and Midland counties. They can serve 459 families and they are now fully staffed.

On an early childhood related topic, Denise McKown of Midland College shared that they are planning to expand their prekindergarten academy.

“When we opened pre-k academy two years ago, the vision was much bigger than just a pre-k academy that was going to serve 68 kids, which is what we serve now.  … We have been in the process of trying to get a plan for a building ready to go for a pre-k academy that can serve 288 children, 3 and 4 year olds. Dr. (Damon) Kennedy is working on funding for that.”

They are planning to expand to 16 classrooms.

McKown said Kennedy, who is vice president of instructional services at MC, reported Wednesday that they were close to where they needed to be funding wise.

“The first floor of that building will be our pre-k academy,” McKown said. “The second floor will be our education division with college classrooms, as well as a lecture hall where we can hold not just our college classes but also professional development for the community through childcare and through certified teachers. We are working on that because we’re in the process of writing a bachelor’s degree for early childhood education. We have approval to open that to start our bachelor’s degree next fall in early childhood education. We’re in the process of getting our application together for an educator preparation program through TEA (the Texas Education Agency) so we can provide those services to get teachers to be certified teachers,” she added.

They are planning to expand to 16 classrooms.