Howard County Chapter of MSCCA Minutes
October 17, 2018
All candidates for Howard County Council and County Executive were invited to join us.
Candidates in Attendance included Calvin Ball, Opel Jones, Deb Jung, Lisa Kim, Liz Walsh, and China Williams.
Randi Albertsen provided an overview and background information on Preschool for All. Information shared included income level eligibility for Head Start and Public School PreK; the original plan for this program to be a partnership between the Public Schools and accredited Child Care Programs; the issue of teacher qualifications and salary; and how the funding does not cover the costs for child care programs who participate in this partnership. The average cost of Child Care in Howard County is $14,000 per year. PreK Expansion Grant flat funds each child at $7734 per year. In the 2008-2009 school year Young School piloted the program with partnerships between Howard County Public School System, the Judy Center and the Health Department. In 2011 the Howard Community College’s Children’s Learning Center began participation. Three years ago, the Young School discontinued participation in the grant. Last year was the Children’s Learning Center’s las year.
Kim Pins (Director of the HCC Children’s Center) provided background on HCC’s mission and why she decided to drop the grant. The first grant was for 3 and 4-year-old children and she logistically could not make it work. Even though the center is subsidized by the college participating in the grant just didn’t make good business sense.
Chris Peusch, Executive Director of the Maryland State Child Care Association provided an overview of the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission and how it would affect child care programs. She also spoke about how the Child Care Subsidy Programs has been underfunded with a very low-income level. Recently the income levels and subsidy rates have been raised.
Dawn Randall, Owner/Director of Good Beginnings, stated how important it is that elected officials value the Early Childhood Programs in the county.
Jo Smetak, Director of Running Brooke Nursery School, expressed her concern with the future of young children and the survival of child care programs.
Zach Hooker, Columbia Academy, voiced his concern about education vs. experience. There should be a certification program for experienced people. The biggest problem with the Kirwan report is it’s public school system view.
- Calvin Ball stated that he believes in a full spectrum of public schools, child care programs and government working together. He is a strong proponent of local businesses and helping them to grow.
- Deb Jung talked about how she first met Margaret Williams, Maryland Family Network, and learned about the importance of the “First Five Years”. She stated that we need to invest more money in Early Childhood Education. She understands and relates to the importance of quality Early Childhood Education.
- China Williams stated that her top priority is education. She has personally experienced many types of child care. If we want to be a vibrant community that attracts more businesses, we need to focus on child care.
- Lisa Kim is a small business owner and is willing to provide a platform for child care programs. She wants us to have an equal voice and it is important to do it right the first time.
- Liz Walsh addressed the overcrowding of schools in her District. She stated that we have a great resource of Early Childhood Programs to draw from in the county.
- Opel Jones currently has children in child care. He appreciated learning about the topic and is taking it all in. He wants all children to have an opportunity to experience quality care.
Additional comments shared by candidates:
Thank you so much for inviting the candidates running for County Council and County Executive to attend the HoCo MSCCA Chapter meeting last week. As a 30-year resident of Howard County and a former consumer of child care services, I have an intimate understanding of many of the issues facing child care providers. It was clear to me after your presentation that public funding for pre-k child care services for 3 and 4-year olds should be available to all providers of such care, not just public schools. Children thrive in an environment that is best suited to their needs and a large classroom in an institutional setting may not be the optimal choice of many parents. Moreover, the need to put more resources into caring for our youngest members of society is critical; not only is it a huge return on our investment, it is in keeping with the standards that have been set by most developed countries. While a much-needed increase to child care subsidies was finally put into effect this year, a more holistic approach that includes tax credits for parents would help tremendously. It was a pleasure meeting all of you and I look forward to being one of your advocates in the future.
China Williams, County Council, District 5
I am a mother of two children and am acutely aware of the struggles families have in finding quality and affordable child care. When my children were younger I worked only part time in my profession as a writer because my salary did not accommodate the costs of full-time child care. I am also aware of the struggles that family-based child-care businesses face in meeting regulations, managing tuition, and nurturing children. Child-care businesses are typically female-owned and should be supported as an integral part of any economic development plan. As Howard County grows and attracts new workers, we must remain dynamic by providing a high-quality of life to our residents. This includes adequate infrastructure as well as great schools and great child care.
I was motivated to run for County Council because of education funding. We moved here specifically for the schools and the current funding for the public schools is not keeping pace with the increasing student population. When need outpaces funds, class sizes increase leading to increased behavioral issues, high staff turn over, and a decline in educational quality. Making education funding a priority is my top concern.
I understand that if all 4-year-olds attend universal pre-K programs, it will have a disastrous side effect on the private market for day care and early childhood education. It can destroy the marketplace and drive up the cost for the kids up to age four dramatically. It's a much more complex issue than what it looks like.
I am not a proponent of mandates or regulations that have the effect of destroying an entire industry especially one that is critical for our children’s success in life. I for one would much rather have my child attend a private facility for UPK than an institutional school setting that can’t get right what it is already tasked to provide. I do not see how the public school system can now take on UPK and do it in any way that I as a parent will find ideal or even acceptable, not at such a tender age of which the children will be. However, I do find quality private day care and early childhood education centers and facilities nearly ideal.
I share the view of not wanting to see child care businesses close and/or increase the tuition for infants and toddlers because the four’s and low-income three’s will be leaving their programs to attend public PreK. I agree the phase-in is not equitable and is not inclusive. I will support and advocate for a mandate of a minimum 50-percent diverse delivery which would be most equitable and create a level playing field for parents and private programs offering early childhood education. I am not opposed in any fashion and in fact support a mandate that will have the children of UPK in the majority attend private facilities.
We can look to States that have implemented more ideal programs for our youngest children as a guide and we can get this right the first time. You have my full and complete support to advocate, use any avenue I have as an elected official and work with you to do what is right and best for our children and their care and education and fortunately that is exactly what you want, too! I look forward to working with you and tackling this for the sake of our children.