For some low income families in Texas, access to childcare is not possible without state assistance. The Texas Workforce Commission, the state agency in charge of instituting a low-income childcare program, is looking for feedback on how it’s doing in a series of public forums.
While the commission administers the program, the program’s money comes from the federal government. That money goes to reimburse childcare centers that offer discounts to low-income families, but one big question surrounding these types of programs is whether daycare centers are being compensated enough per student.
“The reimbursement rate varies, the market rate varies across the state and different workforce boards have adjusted their rates in different ways,” says Dr. Alison Bentley, who works for the United Way for Greater Austin. Bentley specializes in school readiness for low-income kids in Travis County through a program called “Success by 6.”
She says there’s a fair amount of local support here, compared to some other parts of the state, and the program touts a 90 percent success rate in assisting low-income children as they start school. Providing subsidies for that program and similar ones, however, is still a balancing act.
“In Austin, they have to balance the money they get,” she says. “You know, if we increase reimbursement rates, we would have to decrease the number of slots we provide. And sometimes they’re federally mandated to serve a certain number of children.”
The workforce commission also expects to hear feedback on the standards it uses to grade childcare centers. The public hearings start in early October and run through December. They’ll be held in Houston, McAllen, Dallas – and here in Austin on Dec. 8.