By editorial board • 

There's no rational excuse for county's childcare stall

With the county’s blessing, the Yamhill Community Care Organization’s Early Learning Hub established a task force last fall to advise the commissioners on allocation of $2.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. The aim was to come up with blueprints for addressing a countywide childcare crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.

With the help of an expert consultant and focus groups of parents, providers and employers, a team of early childhood experts and community leaders worked up a detailed plan for presentation to commissioners in late March. It called for creation of a childcare center with 80 to 100 slots and a 30-slot training program for additional teachers needed to cope with unmet demand.

Unfortunately, that’s where things seem to have stalled out. While the headline on the initial April 4 story was promising, ensuing headlines were much less so.

On May 23, it was “Commissioners seek more information on child care recommendation.” On Aug. 4, it was “Commissioners seek more data before approving child care grant.” And on Oct. 6, it was, “Board may redirect money for child care to Newberg schools.”

Yes, the commissioners, who have no special expertise in the field, have now spent as much time mulling their options as a cadre of experts did in formulating a way to address an issue of critical urgency and importance to their constituents.

What’s more, they may have even gotten sidetracked by an eleventh-hour bid to channel the money into a Newberg school center instead. It was presented by Superintendent Stephen Phillips, who acknowledged, “I will be the first to admit I’m not a daycare expert,” and went on to note, “I don’t know what I don’t know, so that might be pie in the sky, but I have a tendency to shoot high.”

The 13-member task force was led by Jenn Richter, the CCO’s early learning director, and Jenna Sanders, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency’s associate program director, who are childcare experts.

Members brought a reservoir of experience in preschool, childcare and early childhood education endeavors, generating a report featuring a deep numerical dive into projected costs, timelines and outcomes. In all, they figured on adding 146 to 240 local childcare slots in the county in relatively short order.

But the commissioners sought to trim administrative overhead, originally set at 10% and subsequently cut to 6.5%, while demanding extensive reporting back to them requiring substantial administrative commitment in its own right. They also questioned the previous track record of the lead agencies, while entertaining the overture of a school system that canceled an existing program five years ago for reasons that seems to have been lost in the fog of passing time.

Back in the initial stages last fall, the commissioners considered simply turning the money over to the CCO and letting the agency run with it. Over the course of the intervening year, they seem to have moved 180 degrees in the opposite direction, without managing to advance the cause of addressing the local childcare crisis even one degree.

And have no doubt, it is a crisis. Consider:

n The county needs slots for 6,524 children ages 0 to 4, but only has 1,391 available and only 292 are publicly funded, thus offering subsidies for the low-income. The situation is most dire in the 0 to 2 range, where studies show only 12% of demonstrated need is currently being met.

n The median cost of local toddler care runs almost $12,500 a year — more than half the annual earnings of a minimum-wage worker. That puts it out of reach for a large proportion of local families.

n The median salary for head teachers is only $13.50 an hour, at a time when untrained, entry-level fast-food workers are often able to command $15 an hour or more. Turnover is thus rampant, and was made more so by the ravages of the pandemic.

Those numbers come from the task force, which, unlike the school district, did its homework up front. Members said they serve to brand Yamhill County as a childcare desert.

The money at issue was sent our way by the Biden administration, via its ARPA program. It has to be allocated and spent expeditiously to meet federal deadlines, and time’s a wasting.



With Mr Phillips admission of having no experience in the field, or solid strategy for the substantial amount of funding…It makes me wonder why the Newberg District would even be considered? Our current commission has a history of favoring friends, family & political allies.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable