On behalf of our member companies that make NJBIA the largest, most impactful statewide business association in the nation, I write to you in support of Senate Bill No. 2477 (Ruiz/Cruz-Perez) which will ensure a mixed delivery system for childcare by mandating that school districts provide a majority of preschool pupil placements at licensed childcare centers. This is critical to ensure the viability of private providers and access to care for our state’s youngest children.
Childcare access is a critically important issue for the business community and our state’s workforce. The pandemic laid bare that without adequate access to care, parents, particularly mothers, cannot fully participate in the workforce and our economy is impacted.
The Rutgers Center for Women and Work’s May 2022 report, “The Status of Women in New Jersey” found that while women are largely back to work in our state, there are major changes in how their employment looks now post-pandemic, particularly for low-income women. Some 20.5% women in households earning less than $50,000 have cut their work hours, while 14.6% left their job and 13.2% have taken unpaid leave because of childcare disruptions. Additionally, the report found that nearly 10% of New Jersey women who were not working sometime between April 2020 and December 2021 indicated they were not working because they were caring for children, substantially more than just 2.3% of men.
Expanding childcare access is a key component to combatting this problem and supporting our overall economy. As we continue to move towards preschool expansion across the state, it is imperative that the private sector has a seat at the table. Licensed childcare centers operate on thin profit margins due to the structure of these types of businesses. Staff salaries are the largest expense, making up more than half of typical operating budgets.
Legally required staffing ratios for each age group make it crucial for centers to serve children across age demographics in order to remain financially solvent and maintain a sustainable business model. Infants require 1 staff member for every 4 children. Toddlers must be staffed at a ratio of 1 to 6, 3-year-olds at a ratio of 1 to 10 and 4-year-olds at a ratio of 1 to 12. As a result of these staffing ratio requirements, centers often lose money caring for infants, break even caring for toddlers and begin to make profits caring for 3- and 4-year-old children.
This bill mandating mixed delivery is critical to ensure childcare centers across New Jersey can remain operational. Without a true mixed delivery system, our state would be left with a vacuum of care for infants and toddlers as all preschool students enter public schools. This would have a detrimental impact on the industry which is predominantly owned and operated by women and minorities. Additionally, working parents would be left without care options as they start their families, jeopardizing workforce participation rates especially among women.
A mixed delivery system that empowers and supports public and private providers will ensure equitable access across socio-economic backgrounds for parents and support the overall workforce and our economy. We applaud Majority Leader Ruiz for her continued leadership on this critical issue and thank her for sponsoring this legislation to support licensed providers, New Jersey families and our state’s workforce.