There are a quarter of a million working moms in Arkansas who, just like your mom, deserve thanks for the sacrifices they make for their kids. As a state we’ve made huge strides to help working moms support their families, like providing high quality pre-K, ensuring health care coverage for low-income parents through the Private Option, and providing some tax relief by cutting the grocery tax. But we still have a long way to go. These and other programs, while successful, have struggled because of lack of funding.
This Mother’s day weekend, many Arkansas moms are struggling to pay child care costs, which can be almost as much as tuition at an in-state college. Ten years ago, Arkansas took a huge step forward by increasing pre-K funding tenfold (from $11million to $110 million) for the Arkansas Better Chance program. Unfortunately, this funding has been stagnant since 2008. Every year that pre-K goes without an increase, it gets harder for parents to find quality pre-K for their 3- and 4-year-olds and harder for child care centers to keep their doors open. One of the toughest parts of being a working mom is making sure your kids are in safe hands when you aren’t around. We need to make sure pre-K is fully funded so that moms and their kids can be at their best.
Once kids are in school, working parents still have to worry about caring for their kids during the summer months and the “3-6” p.m. gap between when school lets out and the end of a typical work day. Studies show parents miss more work if they don’t have reliable after-school care. For many moms in Arkansas, especially lower-income mothers, this missed work means decreased pay and compromised job security. After-school programs don’t just help kids, they help their parents and their communities by making sure kids are less likely to get into trouble with drugs, alcohol, and criminal activity. In 2011 the Positive Youth Development Act was passed, acting as a blueprint for high-quality after-school programs. This program is ready and waiting to benefit many Arkansas mothers with school-aged children. All it lacks is the necessary funding.
All moms deserve a chance to succeed and to help their kids succeed. We know that pre-K and after-school care helps families thrive, and we already have the framework for these proven services. It’s time to fund these programs so that they can start helping working mothers in Arkansas. The best gift we can give these moms, and our community, is a safe place for their kids to go after school and a great, affordable pre-K system for our youngest Arkansans. After all, they love and take care of our state’s future workers, our future entrepreneurs, and our future leaders.