Children at the Little Knights Learning Center (LKLC) in Dysart wrapped up their nap a little early on Jan. 20 in preparation for an important visitor to their rural daycare center – Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.
The Governor traveled to Tama County from Des Moines as part of her ongoing efforts to highlight the importance of child care in Iowa’s communities – urban, suburban and rural – while touting recommendations from its Child Care Task Force report, which was released in November 2021.
The tour began with a quick tour of LKLC’s brand new facility which opened in July 2021 as part of a $1.4 million fundraising effort from the LKLC Board of Directors. center.
During the visit, Governor Reynolds passed from room to room, arranging a meet and greet with the center’s babies, toddlers and preschoolers, many of whom watched in bewilderment as the governor and the adult trail accompanying it, including a television. the news camera crew.
After the visit, Governor Reynolds spent approximately 20 minutes chatting and asking questions to Board Chair Wanda Petersen, Dysart Mayor Tim Glenn, Union Superintendent Travis Fleshner, and to several LKLC board members in the before and after school center. treatment room.
Petersen – who is also a board member of the non-profit Dysart Development Corporation – opened the discussion by explaining how LKLC came to its current location just around the corner from Dysart-Geneseo Elementary School.
“Our story is – I don’t know how far back, we’ll go all the way to 2017 – I got a text from my daughter-in-law saying our 15-month-old grandson was going to lose his daycare and the daycare that we had in [Dysart] at the time were all full,” Petersen said.
She then detailed the path taken by the community to bring daycare to town – a path that involved the school district, the town of Dysart, the Farmers Coop Telephone Company and many other individuals and local partners.
Today, LKLC’s 85 childcare spaces are the only option at Dysart, and most of its rooms have a waiting list, including the baby room, which is full for next year.
“We’re just trying to highlight, recognize and uplift a community that can come together and recognize the need [for child care]”, said Reynolds. “It’s a great recruiting tool for your companies, for your schools, for parents to find [to the community].”
Later in the conversation, Governor Reynolds asked what the biggest challenges are for LKLC going forward.
“What has always been a challenge and still is a challenge is having workers. Get staff,” Petersen said.
Governor Reynolds – above the din of screaming children in the hallway – responded by mentioning an early childhood education apprenticeship pilot program for high school students currently underway in Council Bluffs.
“We’re not going to be able to wait very long…or we’re all going to be in bigger trouble,” Petersen said.
“I don’t care what industry it is. This is the biggest challenge we face right now,” Governor Reynolds said of the labor shortage in Iowa.
The group also discussed the low wages childminders receive and how to alleviate the problem without significantly increasing the cost of childcare for parents.
“I am here because you have been recognized as a true leader,” Governor Reynolds said in her closing comments.
Legislation on child-to-staff ratio requirements
Before leaving the center, Governor Reynolds answered a question about legislation being drafted at the Iowa House that would increase maximum child-to-staff ratio requirements at Iowa child care centers. House Republicans are sponsoring the bill as a possible permanent solution to both the need for more child care slots and more child care workers.
The proposed legislation would allow a maximum ratio of one staff member for every eight children in a two-year-old room – a change from the current regulations of one staff member for every six children. The legislation would also allow a ratio of one to 10 in a three-year-old room – a change from the current rule of one member of staff for every eight three-year-olds.
“It even brings us closer to what other states are doing,” Governor Reynolds said. “We are way off the line when it comes to the ratio.”
She also shared a chart listing the current child-to-staff ratio requirements in Iowa compared to other states. Raising the two-year-old child-to-staff ratio to one staff member for every seven or more children would put Iowa in line with at least 9 other states, according to the governor’s data, while increasing the number of three-year-olds. ratio of one staff member for every 10 or more children would put Iowa in line with 41 other states.
“It’s an option,” Reynolds said. “[Child care centers] you don’t have to do that.
The legislation draws directly from the list of recommendations in the Governor’s Child Care Task Force report. Members of the task force included representatives from across the business community, including Sukup Manufacturing and Wells Fargo, municipalities, community development organizations, the Iowa Women’s Foundation, and child care providers from children, including center and home providers.
Lobbyist statements currently on file supporting the legislation include the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Iowa Alliance of YMCA’s.
Registered lobbyist statements against the legislation include Iowa United Professionals/EU and AFSCME Iowa Council 61, Save the Children Action Network, United Ways of Iowa, United Way of Central Iowa, Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, Iowa Federation of AFL-CIO Labor and Common Good Iowa.
Several chambers of commerce — including Marshalltown’s — as well as the Association of Early Childhood Iowa Area Boards and Advocates, the Iowa Head Start Association, the League of Women Voters and several other lobby groups remain undecided on the legislation.
LKLC achieves its fundraising goal
Prior to the Governor’s visit, LKLC was notified that it had received two scholarships from the Iowa Department of Human Services, including the $250,000 Child Care Challenge Grant Award and the Iowans Investment through the Child Care Challenge Grant Award in the amount of $389,830.
The $639,830 in total grants put the center’s fundraising efforts on top and rounded out LKLC’s $1.4 million capital campaign.
According to Petersen, the funds will be used to help pay for the construction loans – which were obtained from both the town of Dysart and the Farmers Coop Telephone Company – and to build the outdoor playground which includes three playgrounds. separate for different ages, fences and shade sheets. .