A number of years ago I was visiting with my friend Alice about my plans to open a preschool.
“My husband and I looked in to that. You will never make any money.” She replied.
This was coming from someone who I knew to be a good source for whether or not something was a financially sound choice. Nice jobs, nice cars, nice house. Lots of travelling, etc.
I was taken aback because it never occurred to me that “making money” was supposed to be the end result. I wanted to work with children. I wanted to feel fulfilled every day. I wanted to run a quality program my way. Enough money to get by would be my only goal.
Fast forward ten years or so, and I realize Alice was right. But so was I.
It is interesting the misconception that revolves around running a child care center. I politely listen as plumbers, electricians, tech guys, strangers at the grocery store, doctors, and lawyers bemoan the cost of childcare. “I paid for childcare for five years! Ridiculous!” or “Well, you must be rolling in dough with what child care costs these days.” I sometimes feel their misconception that I “roll in dough” is reflected in their invoices for me. Some sort of “rolling in dough” fee that they hide in the subtotal area.
It has been an interesting challenge to visit with the community about the cost of child care. Whether a child care center is for-profit or non-profit, our employees need benefits and a livable wage. The overhead is tremendous for wear and tear on equipment (there is quite a lot), insurance, equipment inspection fees, ongoing staff training, and daily expenses of food and learning materials. We face the same financial challenges of other businesses, mortgage, payroll, and taxes.
Our income is capped. Unlike other traditional businesses, the government dictates how many clients we are allowed to have. This is done for good reason to prevent overcrowding of centers, but something not taken in to consideration by a typical business owner.
We often hear of the woes of financing in the public school district. This is another comparison that widens the gap between what is expected for public school and what is expected for early childhood educators. It is assumed that the public schools cannot afford new equipment or teacher raises. It is assumed that the private child care center should be able to afford these items with ease, or that our center teachers are of such low quality and education that it shouldn’t matter.
I do wish to acknowledge that there are major differences between East River and West River. For comparison let’s look at Sioux Falls. Monthly tuition for a certain level of center averages 30% more per student then a comparable center in Rapid City. This is in the same state, with the same tax rates, the same minimum wage, and for the most part similar insurance. A huge gap exists (does Sioux Falls have more appreciation for their early childhood education?).
I am not trying to deny that the cost of quality child care is high and that assistance programs to help struggling families are flawed. But I do know that for-profit centers struggle as much as non-profit. It has been my experience that a large portion of our state population focuses more on the “cost” of child care and not on it’s “value.”
In the comment area, please share your feedback!
Do you personally feel the cost of child care in South Dakota is proportionate or disproportionate? Additionally, does it make a difference which side of the river you’re on?
What have been your experiences in this area? What comments have been made to you, and how have you responded?