What is your child's development worth to you?

By  | 

MADISON, Wis. -- What is your child's development worth to you? It's a question families in Dane County ask as some spend over $1,000 a month on preschool.

Wisconsin is ranked as one of the least affordable states in the country when it comes to child care costs. While some argue cost shouldn't matter for child development, others say the cost of care out-prices a child's change at quality education.

Just when you thought your mortgage would be your largest monthly expense, you decide to have a baby.

"Well, quality costs money, and high quality is expensive," Jody Bartnick, Executive Director of 4C, said.

Annual costs of child care in some cases is higher than college tuition and its showing no signs of decreasing.

"I don't think there's any shame in when thinking about starting a family to set aside money for quality daycare," parent, Krista Loye, said.

"There are a lot of expenses that come into running a child care operation, so you have insurance. It costs a lot of money, of course, to pay for food and certainly high-quality nutritious meals," Bartnick said.

But it's a fee experts say should be seen as priceless.

"A child's brain develops most rapidly in the first 1,000 days of their life," Bartnick added. "These are our children, and there's not a more valuable asset that I can think of, and so we really need to think of it in a sense: this is critical development, this is the time that it's important to pay for quality."

Quality that can come in many shapes and sizes.

"We're on seven acres, we've got nature trails, we've got organic gardens and both inside and outside animals," Bob Davis, Owner of Little Explorers Preschool said.

Little Explorers opened 9 years ago. It's a facility with a pre-school cost of about $1,000 a month and has parents champing at the bit to get in.

"Last year our wait list was up to 130 children. I actually have four people that are on the wait list trying to conceive," Davis said.

A move the Loye's pulled themselves after waiting six months to get their first baby into the child care program.

"When we knew she was pregnant we mentioned to Bob and said we'd like to have another one on the waiting list right away," parent, Jonathan Loye said.

"For us in particular we struggled to have children, so we weren't thinking about day care we were thinking about just having a child. But you know in hindsight now knowing more about what daycare costs, I would probably tell people that are planning and wanting to start a family to think about that," Krista Loye added.

But those are dollar signs a new program is trying to decrease. Temporarily in the rooms of the Fountain of Life Convenant Church, a new child care center is molding.

"We need a preschool revolution in Dane County," Kaleem Caire said.

This founder, president, and CEO is taking on the task

"There are some quality centers in Madison but the cost of those centers are outside the reach of many working families, not just poor African American families. So what we wanted to do was provide a high quality option that would be more affordable for parents," Caire said.

With $1.1 million raised by hundreds of donors, Caire is creating a new facility. Hoping to bring quality child care with a lower price tag.

"Our strategy is very simple don't take on the facility cost let the community help you with that. No cost for facilities like lease or mortgage those things that hold you down, we're able to put that money into higher quality teachers from what the parents are seeing now," Caire said.

Caire hopes to have the permanent location for One City Learning open by June. For now, he is currently accepting a small number of kids into the temporary child care center at the Fountain of Life Covenant Church.