The Aug. 5 Maine Voices column, linking child care with Maine’s economic future, was excellent. The authors (Lucas Caron and Jeremy Fischer) missed one point – a worse crisis for this sector is brewing come September.

Many early childhood teachers have public school-aged children, and don’t have work schedules that will allow them to facilitate a compressed schoolday, remote learning or a hybrid scenario. (They watch our kids so we can go to work and school, remember?) The majority of these workers – predominantly women, and, in parts of the state, many of them women of color – make just enough money so that they are ineligible for child care subsidies, but nowhere near enough to pay someone else to watch their children.

If these dedicated teachers can’t go to work, even more child care centers across the state will be forced to close, leaving working parents of small children in an even worse situation than we faced in this past long, terrible spring. This isn’t about having a toddler interrupt a Zoom call. The economic impact will be extreme, and neglect and abuse cases will skyrocket.

Portland Public Schools’ vague “community partner” care plan is now so stripped down that the current proposal will serve only 200 children, with preference given to Portland Public Schools’ teachers with in-district kids. This spells disaster for the early childhood sector – especially centers serving vulnerable and low-income families. We can stop this emergency, but companies, private funders and governments must collaborate to create a care system for the school-aged children of early childhood workers.

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