As the school year begins, the city, Madison School District and United Way of Dane County are creating a Child Care Scholarship Fund with a goal of raising $400,000 from business and community members to cover a funding gap for providing services to low-income families with elementary school students.
Low-income parents may struggle to find care for elementary school students, especially while they work, forcing hard choices. The scholarship funds, which would allow 150 children to attend full-time programming for free, will be distributed directly to nonprofits, neighborhood centers or child care centers providing child care for low-income elementary school-age children and online learning support to school district students.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — having access to adequate, affordable and safe child care is a significant challenge many of our families face each day,” schools Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said in a joint statement by the partners. “As a community, we are all in this together, and meaningful initiatives like the Child Care Scholarship Fund can truly make a difference in providing an essential service to our neighbors who need it the most.”
Much is happening already for a part of the district’s 14,000 elementary students. The city, district and organizations serving children and youth, including Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR), teamed up to offer child care and online learning support in elementary schools and community sites across the city, the coalition said.
The district has covered approximately $1.5 million of the cost to provide care at 17 sites in elementary schools, along with significant support for other elementary school sites where other community partners are providing care.
At the sites operated by MSCR, many of the slots are provided free or at a reduced price, according to the group. But sites run by community organizations — not by MSCR — have limited ability to provide free or reduced prices for parents.
Annually, the city invests over $720,000 in elementary-age programming, but new circumstances have created more need. To fill some of the gap between need for care and families’ ability to pay, the city has made $100,000 available to child care centers and neighborhood centers to fund scholarships for low-income elementary-age students to attend care at the community sites.
“While the contribution that (the Madison School District) has made to offset the cost for many low-income families is impressive, we know that it only gets us part of the way toward providing adequate slots for learning for our youngest elementary students,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “We are calling on the generosity of our business and philanthropic partners to help us fill this gap and meet the needs for more low-income families in Madison.”
The city and district estimate a $400,000 gap between need and funding, and that’s where the Child Care Scholarship Fund comes in.
“United Way is delighted to partner with (the school district) and the City of Madison to support the educational needs of families who live in Madison,” Renee Moe, United Way president and CEO, said in the statement. “United Way of Dane County frames issues, mobilizes resources and is accountable for results, and we know that child care is one of the needs of families with school-age children during this pandemic.”
Contributions to the fund can be made by contacting the United Way of Dane County or visiting go.madison.com/childcarefund.