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CEO of The Learning Lamp Calls for Commonwealth Investment in Child Care at Public Hearing Exploring Solutions to Staffing Crisis

Posted on March 12, 2024

Mar Lin, PA (March 11, 2024) – The Learning Lamp, a regional leader in early childhood education in south-central Pennsylvania, has nearly 100 job openings and 550 children waiting for care in the six counties it serves. That was the testimony of Dr. Leah Spangler, president and CEO of The Learning Lamp, during a public hearing hosted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Monday, March 11.

Spangler was one of about 10 business leaders and child care representatives to testify in person at the nearly three-hour-long hearing. Another six community stakeholders and child care operators provided written testimony. Spangler told the panel of lawmakers and board members that child care workers are severely underpaid, with many staff starting at about $9 an hour. Unlike other industries that can pay higher entry-level wages to recruit and retain workers, child care wages are limited by what families can afford.

“They simply cannot charge families what it would take to pay those workers fair wages. We need an investment from the commonwealth to help us be able to compete with other industries in our community,” Spangler said.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan legislative agency based in Harrisburg. Center board members and staff held the hearing to examine the child care crisis and seek input on possible solutions to fix the industry’s broken economic model.

Robert S. Carl Jr., president and CEO of the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, summed up the crisis by stating that most parents of young children in that county who are not in the workforce are absent because they can’t find child care or can’t afford it.

“If families do not have access to quality child care, they cannot work, they cannot progress at work. We have a substantial impact on the workforce,” added Andrea Heberlein, executive director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission.

Heberlein shared information about possible solutions other states have explored such as a public-private partnership in Michigan where employers, employees, and state government split costs. In Kentucky, the state provides matching dollars toward employer contributions to child care for their workers. In 14 states and Washington D.C., lawmakers have enacted universal pre-k.

To view testimony from the hearing, visit https://www.senatorgeneyaw.com/. Senator Gene Yaw is Chair of the Center for Rural PA. For more information about The Learning Lamp, visit thelearninglamp.org.

Editor’s Note: Photo Courtesy, Commonwealth Media Services

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The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high-quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. In 2022, The Learning Lamp served 34,813 youth/adults from 61 public school districts and 70 other schools and organizations in 22 Pennsylvania counties.

Our programs include: child care and preschool, after-school programs, tutoring, SAT prep, school staffing, alternative education programs for at-risk students, online learning, credit recovery, drug and alcohol prevention programs, and grant writing and project consulting for schools.

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