Child care isn’t a 9-to-5 job for Lisa McDaniel — it’s her life.
McDaniel runs Lisa’s Little Angels Learning Center in Stop Six, where she grew up. She has always taken care of children and knows firsthand the balancing act between offering a decent salary to workers and ensuring parents, regardless of their income, can afford child care.
McDaniel is excited for the salary boost Tarrant County leaders announced Wednesday that could help up to 1,500 child-care workers. Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County and Child Care Associates announced up to $2 million in federal funds will be used to raise child care educator wages by about $250 monthly for up to six months. Additionally, local elected leaders announced the creation of a new committee to address child-care needs.
Offering a high wage can be tough for child-care providers like McDaniel. It all depends on the center’s location and the demographics of its neighborhood.
“I can’t pay $15 to $20 an hour because my parents can’t afford $300 a week,” McDaniel said. “The salary incentive will be a great help.”
Kara Waddell, Child Care Associates president and CEO, said the child-care industry is going through a market failure in which there is great demand but not enough early educators, yet salaries are still low. Child-care centers cannot keep up with the salaries large companies, such as Buc-ee’s or Costco, offer for traditionally lower-wage jobs, Waddell said.
The average child care worker hourly salary is $11.97 in the Fort Worth area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Fort Worth-Dallas area has 14,960 child-care workers.
“There’s been kind of a mass exodus of people from these low-income wages. They may want to stay in the profession, but with wages that low and the challenge of COVID, we had a massive turnover in the workforce,” Waddell told the Fort Worth Report.
Child-care educators will receive the supplement from their employers, which act as a middle man for the funds. Qualified Texas Rising Star-quality child-care providers will be eligible for the funds.
Waddell considers the $2 million — which is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act dollars tabbed for Workforce Solutions — an initial investment in ensuring young children have access to quality child care.
After the six months are up for the pay bump, child-care programs will be eligible to seek grants from the Texas Workforce Commission to keep the increased salaries.
The temporary wage increase is the first in many steps to improving the local child-care landscape, Waddell said. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and Arlington Mayor Jim Ross announced the new child care-focused committee alongside the pay bump. The committee is expected to direct public and private dollars into areas of child care that need investment.
“There is a crisis facing our child-care system that requires immediate response; we need our community’s best and brightest to help identify and accelerate solutions to these systemic challenges,” Parker said in a statement.
The trio of elected leaders plan to appoint community members to the committee in the next few weeks. Rose Bradshaw, North Texas Community Foundation president, and Alfreda B. Norman, a senior vice president for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, are the committee co-chairs.
“COVID magnified child care and early education challenges — challenges that have been underlying for years,” Bradshaw said in a statement. “It is a historic moment in our community, and we must step up to guide investments that make a multi-generational impact.”
Making that impact is important for McDaniel. Her work is all about getting young children learning. She is hopeful these newly announced initiatives will spur tangible change in Tarrant County and help child care educators.
“They do deserve more pay because this is a lot of work. You become more than a teacher,” McDaniel said. “ You become a mother, you become a mentor — you become a lot over here in this area.”
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.