(PITTSBURG, Kan.) Access to early childhood education continues to be a struggle nationwide. Many parents often find themselves on a waiting list, because there simply aren’t enough spaces. Right now, only 65 percent of children in Crawford County are able to get an early childhood education. This means for every space in the county, there are eleven to twenty waiting for a spot. A couple of women are hoping to change that. Kari Cronister and Kristina Cullison are starting the conversation, to help bring those needed spaces to Crawford County.
“A lof of people joke ‘Before you’re even pregnant you need to get on a waiting list'”, says Crawford County resident Karlea Abel. “We were just thrilled when our turn finally came, it almost felt like winning the lottery a little bit.”
For many like Karlea, finding those high quality early childhood education options has been a journey.
“Getting into a licensed daycare center was incredibly difficult, we were on a waitlist for 17 months,” Abel says.
This isn’t a new issue, this spans not only Crawford County, not only Kansas, but the entire country.
“In a lot of rural areas, especially in Southeast Kansas, it’s just not available, there’s just not enough spots,” Abel says.
“in home childcare went down 17% from 2017 to 2019, childcare centers did go up 5% in the entire state, but that does not meet the deficit and the need, it’s really an issue of supply and demand,” Cronister and Cullison says.
What is there to do then? On Friday morning, Kari and Kristina started the conversation. Together with community leaders they’re working to expand early childhood education in the county, and the ball is already rolling. The Family Resource Center will be expanding its campus soon and Kari and Kristina are working to help create more options for those who work untraditional hours.
“You’re working in the restaurant industry, the manufacturing industry, health care and you have a job where you’re required to work different hours and you don’t get off by six, we don’t have anything available for you really,” they say. “In the entire state of Kansas, only 2.9% of child care centers are opened non-traditional hours.
To help those children have the skills they need to lead the next generation into the future.
“Our little people are going to be our workforce in many years, giving them high quality experiences so they can grow up and achieve those goals,” they say.
Kari and Kristina will be establishing their own childhood care center in the coming year. They hope for it to be up and running with at least twelve new spaces by January 2022.