Minnesota ranks near the bottom in the country for affordable center-based child care, according to a study released today.
But the cost might be high for all the right reasons, says a Minnesota-based advocate for a group that helps parents find child care. The study by Child Care Aware America says Minnesota is the second-least affordable state for child care.
The study examined costs associated with child care for infants and four-year-olds at child care centers. It found that infant care in Minnesota would cost on average $13,579 annually, amounting to 15.6 percent of the median income for a two-parent family.
Ann McCully, Minnesota Child Care Resource executive director, told MPR's All Things Considers on Thursday that Minnesota's ranking comes partly because the state has set high standards for providers. Child-to-teacher ratios at child care centers, for instance, are very low in Minnesota.
"We are among states that are stronger in what we both require in terms of regulations, and expect... in terms of quality of care," McCully said.
States that are the least expensive also tend to have the fewest regulations. But the payoff from investing in early education often isn't obvious immediately, McCully said.
"Much of the development of children happens in those first few years when their brain architecture is forming, that's when we have that window of time to really influence everything about how they're going to do in school and in life and in their future," McCully said. "If we aren't putting our investments at the time when the children are needing it the most, frankly, than we're not doing anyone long-term a service."
MCcully's organization also trains and informs child care providers in Minnesota.
"We feel strongly that we're doing it right in Minnesota, but it definitely is a cost factor," McCully said. "It's always a huge tension in the field to make sure, as providers do, that they recognize the challenge that the cost of care and the cost of quality care puts on parents."
The study only factored child care centers. Family child care in homes for two children would be more than $9,400 cheaper in Minnesota, according to the report.
The study also showed a 30 percent difference in cost between urban and rural child care centers in Minnesota.