Some would say there is no such thing as a sure bet, but after seeing the film “No Small Matter” recently, I would beg to differ.
The film -- which was brought to the region by a local collaborative concerned about child care -- drove home a critical message that we should heed. An early investment in quality child care between the ages of zero and 5 has an enormous return on an investment.
According to the film, the money saved in the healthcare system, in prisons, in tax revenue and in special education is somewhere between $4 and $13 for every dollar invested in a young child.
Think about that for a moment. Invest $1 and get a return of between 400% and 1,300%. And we receive children who grow up prepared for success, ready for the workforce which so desperately needs them.
The brand new documentary film was brought to the region by the Great Rivers United Way, the sparks! child care collaborative, The Parenting Place, Once Upon a Child and the International Performing Arts Campus. I was pleased that 7 Rivers Alliance helped to promote the film.
I attended the first viewing of the 70-minute film on Aug. 24 at the La Crosse Rivoli Theatre. It was also shown on Aug. 28 at Onalaska International Performing Arts Campus and will be shown Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library.
The 7 Rivers Alliance Workforce Development Plan in 2015 identified the lack of quality child care as one of three challenges to the region’s workforce, along with housing and transportation. We have invested many hours working with area collaboratives to help identify the challenges of child care and possible solutions. We held a child care summit in April to discuss the topic.
Our regional challenge of a shortage of quality and affordable child care isn’t unique. The film points out that just 10% of child care in America is considered high quality. In 1950 just 12% of mothers with children under 5 were in the workforce. Today it’s 65%. But with lower-wage jobs, today in 33 states the cost of child care for an infant costs more than tuition at a public college.