Dunleavy speaks
Gov. Mike Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants it to be easier and more affordable for mothers and fathers to put their kids in childcare facilities while they work.

To this end he has established a special task force charged with developing a strategy to improve the availability and affordability of programs that care for young children while their parents are away.

According to an April 6 announcement, the governor’s 11-member task force will form a strategic plan to present to him in December. In part, the group will look at how to address the fact that Alaska has lost nearly 10% of its licensed child care providers since January 2020, and more licensed facilities are anticipated to close after federal pandemic relief is spent.

“Access to quality childcare is extremely important to working families,” Dunleavy stated on April 6. “Healthy families and a healthy economy go hand in hand, and improving access to childcare is essential for both.”

The idea expending state funds and resources to expand childcare options so that parents can leave their children in childcare while spending more time a work is not without critics.

State Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg added that healthy families start with “ensuring access to quality childcare.”

Heidi Teshner, the state’s acting education and early development commissioner, argued that parents need childcare options so they can be “empowered to give their best efforts at work … knowing their children are being cared for in a safe and healthy environment.”

The idea expending state funds and resources to expand childcare options so that parents can leave their children in childcare while spending more time a work is not without critics.

Cardus, a leading non-partisan think tank based in Canada, has done extensive research on state efforts to expand childcare institutions.

Cardus notes that programs to help families should take into account that most parents choose to care for their young children at home. The group emphasizes that any government initiative should provide “equal funding for all families regardless of care type” and stop “violating the principle of free choice without discrimination.”

Cardus and other groups have argued that increased state spending on childcare only benefits those who opt to place their kids in these facilities, while actually burdening stay-at-home parents with additional taxes to fund these programs.

Collaborating with childcare workers, academics, parents and others, Cardus published a detailed vision for childcare which takes into account families who prioritize caring for their children at home. Titled: “A Positive Vision for Child Care Policy Across Canada,” the document is supported by a wide range of signatories.

Dunleavy’s task force will work on finding ways to promote childcare expansion through recruitment, retention, added benefits and the reduction of regulations that pose barriers to licensed childcare programs. They will also look at ways to incentivize employer-sponsored childcare facilities or benefits and offer recommendations on ways to foster public-private partnerships addressing childcare workforce and affordability. There is no mention of how the state might also support stay-at-home parents who do not want their children to spend large amounts of the day under professional childcare supervision.

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Dunleavy wants to explore how to get more Alaska kids into childcare facilities

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.