KALISPELL - Around 20 parents and early childhood educators and administrators held signs in Depot Park Monday in Kalispell in support of the Day Without Childcare Strike.
“I mean, our signs kind of say at all. We are the workforce behind the workforce and I mean, imagine not having, you know, to be able to go to work if you're a firefighter or a police officer or a school teacher or a hospital worker, you know, any of those professions couldn't go to work if it wasn't for childcare. So we are just as important,” said Montana Association for the Education of Young Children Executive Director Renee August.
Despite the cold spring weather, the spirit of the participants was high. Some of the main concerns voiced by the participants were lack of workers, lack of income in a growing community and lack of recognition of their importance.
“People don't view us as, like, real teachers. So, we're here fighting for our profession for our right to a livable wage for people to treat us like the professionals that we are, and just to bring awareness to the fact that if we didn't have childcare for a day, our economy would come to a grinding halt,” said Discovery Development Center Early Childhood Educator Administrator Barbara Otey.
The focus of the rally was to spread the word and urge Congress to help with some federal investment in early childhood care.
“The system has always been based on tuition that families can afford, and or not afford and low wages that people in childcare have been willing to work for. And they're not willing to work for that anymore. So we have staffing shortages, we can't get fully enrolled without the staff, because there's this vision that we can't make a living in early childhood. And so we're trying to change that story,” said Collette Box who runs a childcare center in Kalispell.
Some childcare facilities in Kalispell closed for the day, or for a few hours Monday morning so the workers could join in the rally. Other facilities had fewer children to allow workers to come and support the cause.
“You know, childcare shouldn't be a luxury afforded to just the wealthy few. It should be a right for everyone who has children and needs a place, a safe nurturing place for them to go so that the adults in the home can work,” said Otey.
The Montana Association for the Education of Young Children stated the following in a news release:
"Parents and providers urge Congress to address lack of affordable child care (Missoula, MT) On Monday morning, May 9th , 2022, childcare advocates, providers and parents joined forces to participate in a national “Day Without Child Care” to show elected leaders that Montana cannot function without child care. Affiliated events took place at the Missoula County Courthouse and Kalispell’s Depot Park, where organizers called for fair access to affordable child care and better pay for providers."