WBBM: Childcare workers: Early childhood education ‘at its breaking point’ in Chicago

Screenshot-2024-06-13-at-10.15.22 AM

Photo credit Getty Images

 By Mike Krauser

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Chicagoans are facing a crisis when it comes to daycare and early childhood education, according to leaders with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who said the city needs to step in to help finance what the state and federal government are not covering.

SEIU Healthcare Executive Vice President Erica Bland said Chicago not only has a childcare crisis, but she said it’s “at its breaking point.”

“Parents can’t afford to pay, and workers can’t afford to stay,” said Bland. “This has left children without childcare and early learning that they need, and it has forced childcare workers to leave a profession that they love.”

Doris Milton has been a Head Start teacher for 44 years, and she said she’s seen friends leave the profession.

“So many seasoned childcare workers are leaving the field,” Milton said. “They’re going to Walmart; they’re going to Chick-Fil-A.”

Milton and Bland were among a large gathering of health care providers, parents and others who rallied outside of an early childhood education facility in Bronzeville, which has been impacted by the staffing shortage.

Bland noted that some other cities invest in childcare. She said childcare workers make, on average, about $34,000 per year.

The union commissioned a study that suggested there’s a shortage of between 16,000 – 19,000 workers in Chicago alone. The same study found nearly 80,000 children don’t have access to licensed care.