Op-ed: Don’t Send Us Flowers for Mother’s Day. Stabilize Pa.’s Child Care Sector Instead

By: Diane Cornman-Levy, Chief Disruptor at WOMEN’S WAY; Tameko Patterson, President of the National Council of Negro Women Inc., Pennsylvania; Cindy Hall Ph.D., President of the American Association of University Women Pennsylvania

Mothers across Pennsylvania know that balancing work and parenting is challenging in the best of times. In fact, mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds—or 65.3 percent—of Pennsylvania families.

With women also typically bearing the brunt of child care responsibilities for their families, child care is critical to supporting working mothers and the important role they play in our overall economy. Unfortunately, finding high-quality child care is a growing concern.

Pennsylvania’s child care system is in crisis stemming from a historic staffing shortage driven by low wages. On this Mother’s Day, we are asking Pennsylvania policymakers to focus on what the Commonwealth’s working mothers really need – child care.

So, please skip the flowers and find the resources necessary to stabilize our child care system by paying these qualified educators a livable wage.

Female labor force participation contributes $7.6 trillion to the US GDP every year. In Pennsylvania, women comprise almost two-thirds of the essential workforce (i.e., health care, retail food, and distribution) and were key to providing vital infrastructure services and helping to keep the economy running during the pandemic.

In the current labor shortage that is impacting all sectors, it is vital to the success of our economy to maintain the female labor force. This means supporting the “workforce behind the workforce”; child care.

The average wage of child care teachers in Pennsylvania is $12.43 per hour. At this wage, approximately 21% of child care staff rely on SNAP benefits and 21% are insured by Medicaid.

This unlivable wage is driving child care teachers to higher paying sectors causing a historic staffing shortage, closing child-care classrooms, and increasing waitlists for families. A February 2023 survey of more than 1,000 Pennsylvania child care providers showed that more than 35,500 children currently sit on wait lists at these locations because of more than 3,600 open but unfilled staff positions.

Direct investment is needed to boost wages for child care teachers that better reflects the work, experience, and professional degree achievement of these educators. As we celebrate Pennsylvania’s Moms on Mother’s Day and all their contributions to our society, please skip the flowers and fund child care.

Read the original op-ed here.