Making Ends Meet: More money for child care

Southwest Florida families shell out an average of $4,400 per student on child care, according to data gathered from the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida.

Angela Baird is a single mom with two toddlers who needed help after finding herself in a shelter and in need of child care. Her worries began to fade after she found the Early Learning Coalition of SWFL.

“They granted me a scholarship so the children could attend day care,” Baird said.

It provided quality care for her kids and the savings opened up new opportunities for Baird.

“There’s no way I could’ve continued my education, my career and gave the kids a safe place to go,” Baird said.

She says there are others who aren’t quite as lucky as her.

“There’s not as many funds as there are people that need them,” Baird said.

The coalition’s waitlist shows 1,200 students could benefit from similar funds.

“Statewide there’s over $760 million, and there are gaps. There are definitely gaps in communities like ours,” said Susan Block, CEO of ELC Southwest Florida.

Block says SWFL receives $17 million in early learning funds each year, but there is a flaw in the way it’s distributed because the original formula was created in 1999, and that formula doesn’t account for population growth.

The formula has raised eyebrows across the state for the last two decades. Coalitions are hopeful change could be coming after a report evaluating the pros and cons of different funding models was completed. The report was given to the legislature this week.

Block says many of those models would sway in favor of bringing more funding to SWFL.

If you would like to register for the Early Learning Coalition for SWFL you can find the registry and additional information on their website here.

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