Statewide child care task force meets, sets plan for the rest of the year

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

(Getty Images)

A child care task force made up of 24 South Dakota lawmakers, business leaders, parents and early childhood professionals had its first meeting last month, and the group plans to tackle the issue in meetings throughout the rest of the year.

South Dakota’s lack of affordable and accessible child care has been a concern in political and economic sectors for years, especially after the coronavirus pandemic widened cracks in the child care industry and Gov. Kristi Noem campaigned on the issue in 2022. South Dakota suffers an estimated $329 million loss in productivity due to its inadequate child care landscape, according to a study from ReadyNation, a nonprofit organization focused on business and economic development across the country.

“We know that child care is critical to both the state’s prosperity and the workforce participation of thousands of South Dakotan parents,” said Brookings Sen. Tim Reed in a news release. “It’s time we take a careful look at what we might do to better support access and quality across the state and to explore common sense reforms that might better enable the state to meet the needs of its children, families and employers.”

The first meeting allowed members to explore challenges the child care industry faces and examples of how other states are working to stabilize the industry and support the workforce.

The meetings are not open to the public, said Kayla Klein, executive director of Early Learner SD. She said it would be “too messy” if too many people attend or don’t attend all meetings, since it’ll be a “progressive learning experience.” 

Klein said future conversations among task force members will lead to an idea of what investments “might be feasible” or what bills might be introduced at the next legislative session. The task force will not only focus on child care, Klein added, but the “whole perspective” for early childhood education, including preschool.

“It’s working with legislators — and state departments, too — to figure out what they want as long-term plans,” Klein said, “and then working with advocates and getting some field perspective so we can find where to meet in the middle.”

The task force will meet in Aberdeen in June, Pierre in August, and Deadwood in October ahead of a final report detailing recommendations by the group in December.

“I think this is just a really great jumping off point,” Klein added. “It’s great the legislative body is taking an interest along with fellow advocates and stakeholders across the state to consider what types of investments South Dakota should be making when it involves our youngest learners in the state.”


The post Statewide child care task force meets, sets plan for the rest of the year appeared first on South Dakota Searchlight.