COVID-19 Pandemic 'Wreaking Havok' On Early Childhood Learning Centers
The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on early childhood learning centers that not only care for young children, but prepare them to enter the K-12 education system, advocates said during a Tuesday webinar organized by the Arizona Capitol Times.
These centers have had a hard time staying open due to staffing shortages due to workers who fear contracting the virus, lack of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment and COVID outbreaks, said Siman Qaasim is the president and CEO of the Children’s Action Alliance, a Phoenix advocacy organization. They’ve also experienced cash flow problems.
“They’re serving right now at about 38% of the children they were serving before COVID, so you’ve got much less money coming into a center and yet increased cost," Qaasim said.
These centers provide an essential service to Arizona children and families, adding they need more funds from the state and federal government to stay afloat.
State Rep. Lorenzo Sierra said this sector was already under strain after the state lost $20 million in federal funds to support early childhood education. This was, in part, because the federal government thought Arizona was investing enough of its own money.
“Now we are scrambling in many ways to just catch up," Sierra said.
Sierra introduced a bill this year that would have not only restored the funding, but invested an additional $24.5 million over three years, but it was unsuccessful. He’s hoping to reintroduce the bill again in the state Legislature.