GRANGEVILLE By Eric Tegethoff
Northern Rockies News Service
With the fall semester in session, a scholarship is helping Idaho child-care workers get back to school, too.
About 30 early-care and education workers across the state have received IdahoSTARS academic scholarships, designed to address three pressing issues: low wages, high turnover and low quality of child-care programs.
Cindy Godfrey heads the Kids Klub youth development center in Grangeville, caring for and educating almost 500 students in this rural town. She received her degree from Lewis-Clark State College, attending part-time during a seven-year period.
“With a family in a rural community and trying to make ends meet, it wasn’t going to happen with just our own monies, per se,” Godfrey said. “It could only have happened with IdahoSTARS academic scholarship.”
Child-care workers in Idaho make less than $20,000 a year, according to a Child Care Aware of America survey. IdahoSTARS recipients must work with children for a year before applying, and the program they work for must agree to a 2 percent wage increase each year. They’re also required to continue working at a child-care facility while in school, which helps combat the high turnover rate.
IdahoSTARS works with seven state colleges and universities and receives funding through a federal block grant for child-care quality improvement. The need for early learning is greater in Idaho than most states because of the lack of funding for preschool, resulting in some of the nation’s lowest participation rates for 3- and 4-year-olds.
“This is the cold, hard reality of child care - and it has been for many, many years,” said Chris Rudeen, the IdahoSTARS academic scholarship counselor. “Child care is incredibly low paid. Getting early childhood education in a formal manner is undervalued.”
Kristi Keeler, Kids Klub’s program director and also a scholarship recipient who received her degree in May, said that along with helping her work in a field she’s passionate about, the program helped her accomplish a personal dream.
“I’m a first-generation college graduate in my family, and am very proud of that,” Keeler said.
According to IdahoSTARS, sponsoring a scholarship recipient saves businesses more than $900 versus turnover costs.