CHATHAM TOWNSHIP – Rep. Mikie Sherrill joined Teresa Ruiz, the state Senate Majority Leader, and other supporters Monday to talk about the continuing need for child care.
This is not a new concern by any stretch.
Sherrill and a six-person panel at the Learning Path Nursery School & Day Care spoke of the expense and frustration of searching for adequate child care while pursuing a career.
Sherrill, a mother of four, said some see this as a women’s issue. A bit later in the discussion, she lamented that there remains among some a 1950’s mentality suggesting that a family will just figure things out.
But this is 2023, not the world of Leave it to Beaver. As the congresswoman said, this is very much an issue for the whole economy.
Ruiz, who has sponsored much child care related legislation in Trenton, noted money spent on good child care more than pays for itself in regard to educating children and providing parents with a certain peace of mind on the job.
As was evident by the elected officials on the panel, child care investment tends to be a Democratic initiative.
Then again, one of the panelists was Michele Siekerka, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which generally leans to the right.
Siekerka, after relating her own experience when she sought child care for her twins 31 years ago, said many businesses have found that employees who struggle finding adequate child care tend to be distracted and unproductive.
Some of the problems include scarcity of care, high costs and employee retention for what normally are low-paying jobs. A township police sergeant on the panel said that his family’s monthly child care costs exceeded his mortgage.
Sherrill pointed to legislation she has introduced – the Child Care For Every Community Act.
Among other things, this bill would provide federal support to lower costs for families, establish standards on the same level as Head Start and military child care and raise employee pay.
An obvious obstacle is getting the Republican House to consider the bill.
Sherrill is optimistic.
She said that after years of advocacy on a topic, “at some time you see your moment.”
Sherrill said there are recent news reports about the dire need for child care services in red states like Kentucky.
“I think we’re at a breaking point,” she said, adding that elected officials everywhere will be under pressure to get something done.