Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Child Care is Everyone’s Business

Quality child care is essential. It is key to the healthy development of our youngest children. It is
also a building block of our economy because parents can’t work without it. Sadly, nearly half of
Idaho families lack access to the care they need and challenges are especially severe in rural
areas. As the Idaho Legislature continues to kick the can down the road, our child care crisis will
only become worse.

Most families rely on two income earners to get by which means finding child care. Before the
pandemic, Idaho was short an estimated 20,000 child care spots according to the nonprofit
organization, Idaho Voices for Children. Since then, over 200 child care businesses permanently
closed, resulting in an even greater shortage.

This shortage impacts our workforce and economy. For working parents, it leads to missed work
days and even being pushed out of the labor market. Employers experience higher turnover and
an inability to fill open positions. In fact, Idaho loses an estimated $479 million each year in
costs to business and lost tax revenue due to child care issues. Conversely, investments in our
kids yield long-term dividends. Every $1 invested in quality preschool returns up to $16 to our
economy by better preparing our children to become productive, self-sufficient adults.

The biggest challenge families face is financial. Idaho parents pay hundreds of dollars each
month for care, with the market rate for one infant costing upwards of $800 — more than the
cost of full-time, in-state tuition at Boise State University. The math simply isn’t working for too
many Idaho families, while Republican lawmakers vacillate between ignoring the problem and
making it worse.

Idaho is one of a handful of states that refuses to invest any state funding to make preschool
and child care more accessible. In 2021, GOP representatives rejected a three-year $18 million
federal grant that Idaho was awarded to support homegrown early learning solutions across the
state. One Republican legislator declared he would oppose “any bill that makes it easier or more
convenient for mothers to come out of the home.”

This year, Republicans voted against distributing federal funds to child care businesses
struggling to keep their doors open. Only after severe public outcry and protests by child care
providers and parents, did they reverse course. But this funding stream will end soon, putting
even more pressure on working families, child care providers, and businesses struggling to find

As an Idaho Democrat, I have been frustrated watching the Republican supermajority throw
away promising opportunities for our kids. We understand that investments in our youngest
children are the wisest investments we can make. And we will continue to advocate for their

Rep. Lauren Necochea

Rep. Lauren Necochea

Representative Lauren Necochea is the House Assistant Democratic Leader, representing District 19. She is also chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

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