In this Feb. 21, 2019 photo, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview with the Juneau Empire at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this Feb. 21, 2019 photo, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview with the Juneau Empire at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Sullivan showing leadership with bill to address ‘child care deserts’

Legislation will ensure more parents in Alaska can enter or remain in workforce.

  • Friday, March 15, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

Spring is viewed as a welcome time of rebirth and renewal. It’s an expectation that remains highly valued among residents of the capital in America’s northern most state. However, like most states this year, Alaska’s Legislature is also currently grappling with fiscal realities and hard decisions. All too often, state and federal budget cuts unfortunately disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable in our society.

These days it is easy to expect fewer examples of cross-party collaboration in the midst of divided control of government in Juneau and Washington, D.C. That is why it is important to highlight instances where Republicans and Democrats are willing to come together to tackle big issues that will impact the most vulnerable in our society. Alaskans should be encouraged by Sen. Dan Sullivan’s willingness to address the increasing costs and demand for child care facing working families.

[Opinion: Sen. Sullivan’s subtle budget advice]

In Alaska, there are nearly 40,000 children under the age of 6 with all parents in the labor force. There are only 800 licensed center-based and family child care homes in the state, providing just 29,513 licensed child care slots. That means that more than 10,000 kids, or one in four Alaska children, are left without access to licensed child care when their parent or parents go to work. In Juneau, that number doubles to two out of every five children who lack access to licensed care. Altogether, 61 percent of Alaskans currently reside in what’s known as a “child care desert.”

The term “child care deserts” refers to communities that have more than three children for every licensed child care slot. One might not expect to find a desert in the Last Frontier, but access to quality, affordable child care remains a big problem in Alaska and across the country. Thankfully Sullivan recently announced that he would serve as an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation to increase access to child care for families in Alaska and across America.

[Sullivan to introduce legislation that would help victims of sexual assault]

The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act would provide competitive grants to states like Alaska to support the education, training or retention of the child care workforce. It will also help to build, renovate or expand child care facilities in areas with child care shortages. In light of the fact that the average cost of infant care in Alaska is now higher than the annual cost of college tuition, this represents much-needed and welcome reform. “Child care deserts” are harming our children today and limiting Alaska’s potential for future economic growth, especially in rural and Native communities.

When announcing the legislation, Sullivan said, “I hear repeatedly from working Alaska parents that the lack of affordable child care is among their top concerns, and those concerns are overwhelmingly confirmed by the data.”

He is right, of course, and those concerns are shared by parents across the nation. As an advocate in Washington for bipartisan solutions to help young children, I appreciate Sullivan as a principled conservative who works across party lines to honor values and get things done for Alaskans. Save the Children Action Network applauds his leadership on addressing child care deserts.

The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act will ensure that more parents in Alaska can enter or remain in the workforce while knowing their children are enrolled in the type of quality child care that lays a strong foundation for their future success.

• Mark Shriver is the CEO of Save the Children Action Network. He resides in Washington, D.C. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

Mark Shriver (Courtesy Photo)

Mark Shriver (Courtesy Photo)

More in Opinion

Have something to say?

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

Former Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch in 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Close, but no cigar on meaning mill rate reduction by Juneau Assembly members

Before beginning my teaching career in Juneau in 1968, one of my… Continue reading

Tourists walk the piers downtown on July 14, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Let’s get moderate heads together for a solution on cruise ship tourism

Come on Juneau, we’ve got to do better. Once again neighbors are… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Quality of treatment at Bartlett Regional Hospital is excellent

I recently experienced a relatively serious chest injury and received treatment at… Continue reading

Passengers of the Norwegian Bliss look out across downtown Juneau as they wait to disembark on April 17, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Juneau’s economy is not on the line — Ship-Free Saturdays is about better balance

Judging by the “Save Juneau” posters one would think that Juneau’s economic… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Feb. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Sullivan sinks to a new low

Last week, Sen. Dan Sullivan mimicked Donald Trump’s endless stream of baseless… Continue reading

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign. I feel it is time to speak up about… Continue reading

Juneau School District Superintendent Frank Hauser provides an overview of restructuring options being considered during a Community Budget Input Session at Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Smearing school board members and the superintendent is vindictive and destructive

A school consolidation plan announced by the Juneau School District (JSD) has… Continue reading

Most Read