Inside the push for better child and senior care in Wisconsin

Inside the push for better child and senior care in Wisconsin

FILE - A teacher at Community Care Preschool & Childcare in Beaver Dam teaches 2-year-olds. (Photo by Cara Spoto)

By Pat Kreitlow

June 28, 2024

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Wisconsin family advocates amplify the importance of making life more affordable for those engaged in child care and elder care.

It’s no secret that Wisconsin’s experiencing a childcare crisis–one that is stretching providers, straining parents, and causing headaches for employers.But despite pleas from parents across the state, the  Republican-led Legislature has refused to act and provide adequate funding for the childcare sector.

Now, with an election less than five months away, family advocates and lawmakers are ramping up their focus on the issue in Wisconsin in the hopes of making childcare and paid leave marquee issues for voters come November.

“The fact is that 77% of working people—that’s more than 2 million people in Wisconsin—don’t have access to paid leave through their jobs,” Sondra Goldstein, executive director of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy (CFFE), said on UpNorthNews Radio. “And the cost of childcare for a family of two costs more than in-state college tuition. It’s a bigger strain on the family’s budget than housing,” resulting in people leaving the labor force and reducing income tax revenue for the states.

The CFFE recently did surveys in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Montana to gauge public attitudes about ways to help families through government initiatives that promote affordable childcare, paid family and medical leave, and investments in both home- and community-based care for the aging and the disabled.

“What we found was that there was an overwhelming number, about 77%, believe that the government should be making childcare more affordable for families,” Goldschein said. “And that lines up with what we’ve been seeing in other research. There’s a real trend emerging in people believing that government has a responsibility to ensure affordable childcare for people.”

Some political leaders are also championing the need for more public sector support for the family infrastructure.

“We need universal child care in this country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told UpNorthNews Radio during a recent Wisconsin visit to support President Joe Biden’s reelection. “Why? So mommies and daddies can go to work, so our babies get their best start in life, and so that our child care workers are paid a living wage commensurate with the responsibility of the work they do.”

While Warren and some lawmakers are focusing on the care economy, Goldschein said there is a need for more elected officials to understand that the health of the broader economy is dependent on a strong care economy—the paid and unpaid labor that makes it possible for other people to work, knowing that their family members are getting quality care.  

“We see politicians across the country really take things like child care for granted and don’t consider how interconnected it is with a person’s individual economic prospects,” Goldschein said. 

Goldschein praised Warren’s efforts on pushing for universal childcare–as well as those of Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is up for reelection in November. 

“Senator Warren has really been a leader in articulating that,” Goldschein said. “Senator [Tammy] Baldwin has been a longstanding champion of lowering the cost of caregiving for working families. She comes out at it with her own personal experience of caring for members of her family.”

During her interview on UpNorthNews Radio, Warren also said Biden’s family friendly agenda doesn’t end there.

“We’re going to reduce the cost of health care even more,” Warren said. “Joe Biden has started that with negotiations with the drug companies, and we’re going to keep it up and we’re going to make sure that Social Security is stable and available for all of our seniors—something that you can count on and your kids can count on and your grandkids can count on.”

“We’re going to invest in housing, build up the housing supply,” Warren continued, emphasizing the work will be done in both rural and urban areas. “It’s for first-time homebuyers and people who want to live in apartments, and seniors who need different arrangements for their living, and people with disabilities. We need more and more on the housing front.”

In contrast, Warren said, former President Donald Trump’s economic plan will focus on “his investors, his richest donors, to contribute big dollars to his campaign, and he’s going to give them a giant tax cut. He’s going to give the oil companies tax cuts. He’s going to reduce regulations so they can pollute this country even more and make the climate crisis even worse. That’s the family plan for Donald Trump and the Republicans.”


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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