Arizona child care system still faces instability despite federal funding

Arizona’s child care system has been an issue of concern for years, with claims of neglect, a lack of state funding and the mis-handling of opportunities for “federal” funds. Maria Polletta of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting took a close look at the state of child care in Arizona.

“I saw last summer when we were a few months into the pandemic that most operators had either reduced their hours or at least closed temporarily,” Polletta said.

Polletta said she had decided to investigate the Arizona child care system to see where things stand now compared to the start of the pandemic. Polletta said her investigation has shown Arizona’s child care is in a better spot than last year, however that is a low bar to achieve.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty in the system really at every level, as I mentioned there’s that federal funding that has temporarily allowed the state to provide reimbursement rates,” Polletta said.

Polleta said the state has struggled to get federal funding allocated to areas that need it, and this happened even prior to the pandemic.

“While the federal funding amount that we got toward child care and early child education is huge, frankly it’s temporary, it’s going to run out so we have a lot of officials talking up how great it is to have this investment, but no one is talking about what happens in two or three years when that money runs out,” Polletta said.

Polletta said another issue is the slim profit margin for child care providers and caregivers, leading to many resignations in the field.

“They’re getting paid less in some cases than fast food workers, not to diminish that work for people who are taking care of our up and coming generation that work hasn’t been prioritized by officials,” Polletta said.

For more details on Arizona child care, Polletta’s story can be found here.

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Maria Polletta, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

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