By Nicole Wetzel, GCC after-school teacher
With overwhelming parental support, the Goodman Community Center child care team participated in a day of advocacy April 5 at the Wisconsin Capitol. The team, along with 250 child care professionals from around the state, came to petition our legislators to continue to finance Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ Child Care Counts program.
This program originally was established to provide monetary support to child care professionals and centers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were encouraged to bring stories of how this money had helped us personally. We told stories about starting savings accounts, no longer needing Goodman’s food pantry, being able to afford a dance class for a child, getting off food stamps and just having a bank account that was not at zero each month.
The group’s morning was spent learning how to tell our stories to legislators, with whom we would meet in the afternoon. As a group of 250, we felt excited, energized and perhaps a little nervous to be advocating for such a big ask — $300 million every year! But we were adamant that child care counts and as teachers, we deserve what we’re asking for.
The day was full of civic engagement, care for community, enthusiasm that things might be changing and comradery. As a group, we were feeling confident our stories would be heard and seen with the same urgency that we were telling them.
But when I got home and started to reflect on the day, the words of a state senator who sits on the Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families and was part of the morning training kept ringing in my ears, “It’s OK to cry! You can really pull on their heartstrings!”
I started to feel dismissed. Some of my co-workers have been advocating for fair competitive wages in child care for over 40 years — seeing very little change. The Child Care Counts money has opened some new doors. But this senator’s response to our LIFE changing stories made me wonder if he (and perhaps others) see this as just a side show. That our fight for children, their care and our professional future is something that will once again settle.
The tears will dry. State government will probably prioritize other things, refusing to acknowledge a child care crisis that sits in front of them. As a teacher, I am prepared to keep making noise and beating the drum that CHILD CARE STILL COUNTS!
Ways you can advocate for the Child Care Counts program
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