Early education and child care are labor issues: ‘We can help bridge this gap’

Panelists Natalie Boyle, Rep. Angie Chen Button, Tori Mannes, and Jaynie Schultz

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted its biannual State of Early Education, presented by PNC Bank, Thursday, Feb. 15, to explore the economic importance of early education and child care.

“When we talk about companies looking to move here or companies that are here, what they’re looking for is talent… and talent starts with early education,” said DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey. “That’s why we work so hard to advocate for early education here—it’s the building block we all get started on.”

Amber Scanlan, Senior Vice President and Director of Client & Community Relations at PNC Bank, set the stage for the keynote conversation by detailing the benefits of investing in children’s education before they reach five years old.

Amber Scanlan of PNC Bank

”[The investment] shows up in their third-grade reading scores, their ability to transition from learning to read to reading to learn; it shows up in high school graduation rates; it shows up in matriculation of college; it shows up in their ability to go and earn a living wage, be a good taxpayer, and also has opportunities to help bring people out of generational poverty,” Scanlan said.

President & CEO of ChildCareGroup Tori Mannes sees the funding structure for child care providers as a critical barrier preventing children from reaping the benefits of early education.

“As it exists now, 85% of the cost of child care is paid by parents through private tuition, and parents are maxed out,” said Mannes. “The cost of living has gone up, wages have not kept pace with inflation, and parents simply can’t afford care.”

Left to right: Rep. Angie Chen Button, Tori Mannes, DRC President & CEO Dale Petroskey, Amber Scanlan, Jarrad Toussant, Jaynie Schultz, and Natalie Boyle

In the November 2023 election, Texas voters passed a proposition allowing local governments to offer qualifying child care facilities property tax exemptions to offset some of their operational expenses, which can, in turn, support lower costs for parents and caregivers. The DRC supported the passage of the proposition with its Good for Texans campaign. However, it’s up to local municipalities to implement the tax break. The Cities of Dallas and Denton are the only ones in the Dallas Region to do so thus far.

Dallas City Councilmember Jaynie Schultz charged attendees with engaging their city and county officials to encourage adoption of the exemption, as had just happened in Dallas the previous day.

“I would consider yesterday absolutely a victory, though not a complete victory,” said Schultz. “The system itself needs to be reimagined and be strong enough to be resilient to our different changes that happen over time.”

Solving the challenges facing early education and child care requires engagement from a variety of stakeholders, including lawmakers, parents, employers, and providers.

Annie’s Place is one such example of cross-sector collaboration to address child care challenges. Through a first-of-its-kind partnership with Parkland Health, the non-profit organization helps provide child care services to patients and hospital staff to ensure access to medical care.

DRC SVP of Education & Workforce Jarrad Toussant

“We have to figure out the systemic things that we can do, but we also have to figure out the patchwork quilt that’s going to get us just past this little bump right now,” said Annie’s Place Founder and CEO Natalie Boyle. “If we get in and start finding solutions that work for people in certain environments [like Annie’s Place at Parkland Hospital], then we can help bridge this gap while we figure out the big things we can all work together on. But we need solutions now.”

“I really, truly believe early childhood development is much more than a child care issue,” said Texas State Representative Angie Chen Button, who Chairs the Texas House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development. “It’s much more than just a feminine issue. It is a labor issue. It is an economic development issue. And when business people comprehend this and embrace this concept, something good, productive, and sustainable will come.”

Thank you to our presenting sponsor, PNC Bank, and our silver sponsor, Oncor.

To learn more about the work the DRC is doing in education, visit our website.