Opinion: Let’s give our children the best start possible

Whenever there has been a crisis in Juneau, the community has generously stepped in to help, especially when it involves children. The current lack of affordable child care has frustrated families and slowed Juneau’s economic growth. How we respond will help define our future.

In just the last 12 months, Juneau lost another 20 percent of its child care spaces due to provider closures, leaving us with less than half of the child care capacity we need. Parents simply cannot afford to pay enough to make child care economically viable in Juneau; the market is failing.

This child care shortage impacts all of us, forcing parents out of the workforce, increasing parent absenteeism, reducing child readiness for kindergarten (which reduces achievement during their entire school life), increasing stress that may result in more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and much more.

While these impacts on individual families and children are bad, the collective impact on our community’s economy is also highly negative: less people in the workforce means reduced earnings, and stifled innovation and entrepreneurialism. Workday disruptions reduce productivity. Employers are less likely to set-up shop or increase their presence here. Consider the two most important factors the Coast Guard considers when placing facilities: affordable, available, high-quality child care and affordable housing.

Then there are the negative impacts on children and their development. There is overwhelming scientific proof that ages zero to 5 are the most important years for healthy brain development, learning preparation and development of skills. Approximately two-thirds of Juneau’s children entering school are not “kindergarten-ready,” a key factor in lifetime academic performance. Alaska exceeds most other states in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs); Juneau exceeds the Alaska average in half of these categories.

High-quality child care has been shown to have a significant positive impact on improving kindergarten readiness and reducing the negative impacts of ACEs, as well as numerous other benefits such as improving lifetime earnings and general health indicators.

But what can we, the people of Juneau, do about this?

On Aug. 13, the Juneau Assembly will determine whether to put an advisory vote on the Oct. 2 municipal ballot asking Juneau residents whether the city should provide leadership and financial assistance to private and nonprofit child care providers, correcting our community’s market failure.

Using a nationally-successful model, the first-year cost of fixing our child care system would be approximately $700,000. The maximum annual cost after a five-year implementation is $2.8 million per year. This would result in a doubling of child care availability, which is estimated to meet Juneau’s child care needs. This is a small amount to spend to provide relief for Juneau families, improve our economy and prepare our children for a lifetime of success. We can afford to do this — and can’t afford not to.

Now is the time for everyone in Juneau to invest in its future: our children. Your support can make a huge difference in the lives of Juneau’s children and families, and make Juneau the most family friendly community in Alaska. Please contact members of the CBJ Assembly before Aug. 13 and encourage them to put this advisory vote on the October ballot to let us, the people of Juneau, decide. Then listen, get informed and get involved to support the successful passage of the advisory vote in the October 2nd election. Our community, and our children, are worth it.


• Kevin Ritchie is a former Juneau City and Borough Manager. He retired as the Executive Director of the Alaska Municipal League/Alaska conference of Mayors in 2006. He has been involved in many local and statewide youth, civic and professional organizations. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Mist from Nugget Falls has a prism-like effect in September 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Multiple vehicles line up at the entrance of Waste Management’s Capitol Disposal Landfill in Lemon Creek Monday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
The absence of economic incentives to reduce waste

This week, Waste Management, the Texas based company that owns and operates… Continue reading

Over 200 people attended LunaFest (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: JPCC owes a huge debt of gratitude to two LunaFest guest speakers

LunaFest 2023 was JPCC’s most successful fundraising event ever.

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Education funding is complicated and political

At a recent Alaska State Senate Education Committee hearing at the Capitol,… Continue reading

At Wednesday evening’s special Assembly meeting, the Assembly appropriated nearly $4 million toward funding a 5.5% wage increase for all CBJ employees along with a 5% increase to the employer health contribution. According to City Manager Rorie Watt, it doesn't necessarily fix a nearly two decade-long issue of employee retention concerns for the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Assessment needs additional oversight

A win in dealing with City and Borough of Juneau is when… Continue reading

This photo shows the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Deja vu for the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

Three new alternatives don’t go far enough.

In this Nov. 29, 2018 photo, clouds swirl over Douglas Island. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The Roadless Rule is a misnomer for what’s really happening in the Tongass

The Roadless Rule, as currently comprised with an exception provision, works.

Faith Myers stands at the doors of API. (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Psychiatric patient care report could be catalyst for improvements

Will good suggestions get lost in state bureaucracy?

Most Read