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HomeNewsStatewide Rural Childcare Victory Tour Kicked Off July 6th in Grand Marais

Statewide Rural Childcare Victory Tour Kicked Off July 6th in Grand Marais

Kids Count on Us, a statewide coalition of providers, parents, and teachers working for accessible and affordable child care across Minnesota, held the kickoff of its Rural Childcare Victory Tour in Grand Marais, MN Thursday, July 6. The two hour event includ­ed the debut of the documentary film Labor of Love, an honest look at daycare workers and providers that honors the commitment of the men and women who do this vital work while highlighting the immense challenges they face each day.

The meeting, intended to be a childcare conversation, was held in the building that houses Cook County Higher Education. More than 40 people attended.

The Conversation was co-sponsored by Cook County Childcare Solutions, an initia­tive of Cook County Public Health and Hu­man Services (PHHS) that meets monthly with a goal of providing feedback to PHHS on all childcare related initiatives in the com­munity.

After hearing from local officials, parents and business owners, the meeting included a panel of three legislators, Representative Roger Skraba (3A, R), Senator Grant Haus­child (3, DFL) and Senator Erin Murphy (64, DFL). Senator Liz Boldon (25, DFL) could not attend in person but her legislative aide was on hand.

The three legislators agree that Minnesota, particularly rural Minnesota, has a crisis of affordable and accessible childcare. In Cook County alone there are almost four kids that might need care for every space licensed to provide it. Lack of adequate child care is thought to be keeping people from moving to Cook County to take some of the positions employers have trouble filling.

Senator Hauschild summed it up with, “I understand how this crisis impacts the busi­ness community more after hearing you all. We need everyone to come together to solve this.”

Representative Skraba said, “If we can in­vest in childcare, we know we will be able to take care of everyone here.”

Also in attendance were Cook County Ad­ministrator James Joercke, HRA director Ja­son Hale and county commissioners Stacy Hawkins and Ann Sullivan.

Earlier this year, PHHS and the county’s Economic Development Agency (EDA) re­ceived grant funding to raise hourly pay for childcare workers by up to $5.79 per hour, raising average pay closer to what the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) says is a statewide av­erage of $19.29 per hour.

Pat Campanaro, a consultant with the Small Business Development Center of the EDA in Grand Marais commented on the difficulties, bureaucratic and financial, of starting a child care business. She reported that in the re­cent past, “I’ve watched five people attempt to open a childcare business and fail [to get open].”

Despite that, Nancy Deming, Childcare Coordinator/Licensor with PHHS reports progress, seeing an increase in people who are exploring becoming childcare providers.

Kids Count On Us is affiliated with ISA­IAHmn.org which describes itself as “a ve­hicle for congregations, clergy, and people of faith to act collectively and powerfully to­wards racial and economic equity in the state of Minnesota.”

The Rural Childcare Victory Tour is mov­ing on with four more sessions planned. It will be repeated in New Ulm, August 21; Or­tonville, September 13; Bemidji, September 5,6, or 14 (schedule not yet finalized); and Mountain Iron, September 28.

More Kids Count On Us information may be found at https://isaiahmn.org  or its Face­book page.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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