This post was written by JCA member Rebecca Slisz and delivered in person at the Tzedek Summit on Economic Justice on Sunday, August 30th.
My name is Rebecca Slisz. I’m a member of Mt Zion. The campaign I’m going to talk with you about today is called “Kids Can’t Wait.” It brings together some big topics: child care, education and taxes.
Why do I care about this campaign?
I’m the mother of a 4 ½ year old boy named Jordan and a 2 year old girl named Chelsea. I also work full-time. Since they were 4 months old, Jordan and Chelsea have gone to a daycare program that is reliable, high quality, and affordable. Knowing that they are in a safe, educational environment gives me tremendous peace of mind and the ability to work full-time.
Not every parent has the opportunity to have affordable, quality child or dependent care, so that they can consistently go to work or school.
How can we as a community help to address this need?
One way is through the Child Care Assistance program, which, in tax terminology, is an allocation of funds.
One component of the program that needs attention is known as Basic Sliding Fee. The idea of “basic sliding fee” is that families pay what they can for child care, and, as their income increases, they pay more. The state also pays a portion of these families’ child care expenses.
Over the last few years, funding for Basic Sliding Fee has decreased. Today there are roughly 5,000 families who could benefit from Basic Sliding Fee but aren’t due to lack of funding. The campaign seeks to increase funding for Basic Sliding Fee.
Another key component of the Child Care Assistance program is reimbursement to providers who care for low to mid-income children. The current reimbursement rates are inadequate, so providers are forced to choose between not caring for children who need assistance and not making enough money to keep their childcare programs going.
Affordable child care is a crucial building block of family economic security and future economic success for Minnesota. Children in stable, positive child care situations have a jump start on children whose care is inconsistent.
As a Jewish community we have had a long-standing commitment to children, the next generation, l’dor v’dor, and education. Historically, at least for Jewish boys, schooling began soon after weaning, and continued through age 13, regardless of a family’s status or means. Today, happily, those principles apply for girls as well.
How else can we help families who are struggling to pay for adequate, quality child care?
Another opportunity is with tax reform. For those who saw the film “Inequality for All” – and we all will have a chance to see a clip soon – you know how the current tax system perpetuates undue burdens on low income families. In the House Meeting discussions about solutions, many advocated for a more progressive tax system – where those who make more, pay more, and those who make less, pay less.
The specific demand of the Kids Can’t Wait campaign is for expansion of the Child and Dependent Care tax credit. What I mean by “expansion” is an increase in the number of low to mid-income families who are eligible for the tax credit for child and dependent care.
In 2015, no tax bill was passed. In 2016, it is likely that some tax bill will be passed. The legislature will also make important decisions about how the budget surplus will be spent. We not only have the opportunity but also the obligation to defend against tax cuts that have been proposed, and to advocate for tax policies that would make the tax system more equitable and better for working families.
In closing, I’d like to try to create an image for you of what this campaign means to me. A few years ago during High Holidays at Mt. Zion, Rabbi Adler gave a sermon about really seeing people. She used an example of sitting in her car with her daughter at a stop light where a homeless person was asking for money. Her initial reaction, like so many of ours, was to look away. Like many Jewish children would, her daughter asked why.
Ever since I heard that sermon, I can’t look away when I am at an intersection and see people in need. When I am driving my children to day care in the morning, I also can’t help but look at mothers with children we pass on the way and wonder if they all have the option to find affordable, reliable child care so they can go to school or work. Their Kids Can’t Wait.
Today, can we see them and take action to help them?