The last time the EO Media Group editorialized about how Oregon is moving slowly on helping families find child care that is safe and affordable, it got the attention of state Rep. Karin Power, co-chairwoman of the state’s legislative child care task force.
Power, D-Milwaukie, wrote to us. She explained that the task force we wrote about differs from a legislative committee working on current bill proposals. It’s purpose is to study the issue and make recommendations. She wrote that the pandemic has affected many members of the task force professionally and personally. And Power pointed out other things the state is doing about child care.
That Power took the time to write to us is a clear indication of her commitment to finding solutions. The function of the task force, though, was not the point of the editorial.
As we wrote, when legislators felt the need for police reform, there was a special session. Major changes were made within weeks. When legislators felt the need for child care reform, they created a task force. The task force was created by the Legislature in 2019. It’s now almost the end of 2020, and it will be another month or so before the task force is scheduled to make recommendations.
Notice the difference? Why is that? Do Oregonians need to demonstrate in the street to get the Legislature’s attention on child care?
To be fair, creating a task force is far from the only thing state government has done about child care since 2019. There were near-term changes in the wake of the pandemic. The state took several steps: making grants available, reducing copays to zero for families in a state-subsidized, child care program and more. Those were actions to be proud of. They are, though, temporary — related to the pandemic.
The fundamental problems with families finding child care in Oregon were not a mystery before the task force began. They are not a mystery now. Supply is sparse and costs more than many families can afford. The wages in the industry don’t make it attractive. Regulations are necessary and well-intentioned but don’t always produce the intended outcome. The problems hurt the abilities of families to succeed. It makes it harder for the economy to recover from the pandemic.
Of course, the task force’s work has value. For any legislator on it, it surely gives them knowledge and motivation to push for changes. The task force has also reviewed careful analysis of the problems that may not have got the same attention. Next week, for instance, the task force is scheduled to discuss a study of a child care in Bandon that makes fairly precise recommendations about changes needed.
We do look forward to the task force’s recommendations. How long after that will Oregonians be on the waitlist for changes?