Simplified: Members of the Sioux Falls City Council's regulatory oversight committee on Tuesday shared a draft list of six priorities related to how the city can help address the ongoing childcare crisis.

Why it matters

  • The regulatory oversight committee has been talking about childcare in earnest since the start of the year, hearing directly from providers about the challenges they're facing.
  • In a nutshell, the childcare crisis boils down to a gap between what parents can afford to pay and what providers must charge in order to provide adequate care.
  • Councilor Rich Merkouris during a committee meeting on Tuesday outlined a draft list of six priorities the City Council could focus on accomplishing over the next year, and fellow committee members echoed their support.
"We're not just talking about babysitting – we're talking about early childhood development," Councilor Greg Neitzert said. "I think this is a great discussion, and let's just keep moving it forward."

Tell me more about the priorities

Here's a breakdown:

  1. Build a scholarship program to strengthen and elevate the childcare workforce.
  2. Identify regulatory or economic incentives to encourage the opening of more in-home daycares – especially after learning that the city is losing between eight and 10 in-home daycares each year.
  3. Pursue helpful accreditation opportunities – like, for example, supporting the ongoing work of Sioux Falls Thrive to get the city accredited as an Early Learning Community. (More on what that means here.)
  4. Develop a tri-share pilot program. This is a model that's working in Michigan and currently being piloted in Rapid City. Essentially parents pay for one-third of the cost of childcare, employers pay another third and the city or a community foundation picks up the remaining third.
  5. Build more of a support network to connect qualifying families with childcare assistance.
  6. Create a one-stop information hub to serve both parents looking for childcare and providers looking to fill slots. It's likely this will look like supporting an app the Helpline Center is already working on.

Councilor David Barranco suggested a seventh item to the list related to creating a network where childcare providers can share various professional services from accounting to lawn care to insurance.

"I strongly believe that if we help them create the infrastructure to share that service, that (could) lower their operating costs," Barranco said.

What happens next?

The goal is to create a specific list of action items that can be presented to the full council in the next month.

  • Part of the work in refining that list involves deciding whether the city should create a full-time position dedicated to coordinating childcare efforts. That's a move for which Councilor Alex Jensen has recently advocated.