Nearly half of the early child care centers participating in the state’s YoungStar program have only a two-star ranking.
A quarterly report from the Department of Children Families rates 1,855 of the roughly 3,778 childcare facilities in the program at two out of five stars, while another 19 providers received just one star. A two star ranking in the program means those providers meet just basic health and safety standards.
Participation in the YoungStar rating program is only required for childcare providers that wish to receive Wisconsin Shares subsidy payments. The number of overall providers rated at two stars or less has been on the decline over the past three years, but so have the number of overall participants in the YoungStar program. Providers rated at two stars see a five percent reduction in the reimbursement they receive from Wisconsin Shares payments.
State Representative LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), a former childcare worker, said she was not surprised by two star providers making up a large portion of the list. “YoungStar requires too much of an investment and too much money for your typical day cares to reach five star status,” she argued.
The state does allocate several million dollars a year towards helping providers improve their ranking and their quality of care. Those include higher reimbursement rates, scholarship programs, and grants. Johnson said the education-based criteria are hard to meet though, since the incentives for staff improving their education often do not translate to improved wages. “If I get an associates degree in early childhood education, I’m going to start at a job making $10 an hour…You can work at the Home Depot and do that, and that doesn’t require a college degree.”
That argument is bolstered by a report released last month by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, which showed the media wage for starting early childhood teachers in the state was $10 an hour, while assistant teachers started at $8.50 an hour. While more than half of those teachers had associate degrees, average annual salaries were just $20,800. The group argued that those numbers result in high employee turnover in early childhood education centers, which hurts the quality of care those children receive.