Leaders across sectors in Ashe have created a task force and are planning creative solutions to the child care shortage. This spring, a training facility and lab school for early childhood teachers will open through a partnership with Appalachian State University.

But the task force has found “there are so many edges to the problem,” Honeycutt said. Even with stipends from employers, many families can’t find or afford care. Many facilities are struggling to find teachers. And local investments like theirs can only go so far.

“That’s where the legislature has to step in and fund this for us, so that we can start to make a difference — a fundamental difference … and not just try to put a Band-Aid on it,” she said.

Despite the best efforts of communities throughout the state, the early care and education system remains in crisis.

Without access to affordable child care, parents can’t run the businesses that provide the services upon which we all depend. Experts point to this as a cause of current worker shortages, the costs of which get passed to consumers in the form of longer lines and higher prices at the grocery store.

Without early childhood care and education being high quality, we risk the health and well-being of the children who will become the next generation of workers. The effects of this are already being felt in high costs of health care, public safety, and public assistance programs.

Experts across the state — from parents and educators to business leaders and policymakers — agree that nothing less than North Carolina’s economic future is at stake without investment in early care and education.

Research shows that investing in the care and education of North Carolina’s youngest residents has a positive impact on two generations simultaneously, both in the short and long term.

In the short term, the state’s economy is stronger when parents can earn family-sustaining wages knowing their children are safe and cared for while they work.

Those children benefit in the short term too. Evidence shows their brains thrive when they have caring adults around them who know how to support their development.

In the long term, investing in our state’s infants and toddlers leads to their improved health, lower incarceration rates, better educational outcomes, and greater workforce readiness.

The economic benefits from these short-term and long-term outcomes are lower burdens on the state’s systems and a higher tax base to pay for them. Investments in early childhood bring a higher return than investments at any other point in a lifetime, economists argue.

Read the full article about child care by Liz Bell & Katie Dukes at The 74.