Simplified: The city regulatory oversight committee on Tuesday heard from about a half-dozen people in the childcare industry about why their industry is struggling, as well as the resulting affect on parents. It’s all in an effort to spur action from the Sioux Falls City Council.

Why it matters

  • The average annual cost to send a child to an in-home daycare in Sioux Falls is nearly $7,800, per Kid Counts data cited Tuesday. For a center, that average goes up to about $12,000. Provider Karen Rieck compared that to the average tuition at Southeast Technical College — which is about $7,600.
  • Low-income families can find some relief through federal programs, but South Dakota is one of about a half-dozen states that doesn’t supplement childcare assistance funds at all. Additionally, some state requirements make that money unattainable even for folks who would be eligible to receive it, providers told councilors.
  • Meanwhile, childcare providers are some of the lowest paid people in the state, and low wages have meant high turnover, unfilled jobs and, as a result, potential daycare spots sitting empty because no one can staff them. 
  • On top of that, the cost of doing business for childcare providers has gone up significantly in recent years, and many have no choice but to pass that cost onto parents.
“Since March 2020, I’ve raised my tuition by 152%," said Melissa Anderson, owner of Truks-N-Trykes childcare center. "And that is just to cover the cost of utilities, the cost of food and the cost of payroll."

So, what can be done to help?

There are a number of proposed solutions on the table, including this 97-page document the Sioux Falls childcare collaborative compiled as part of an eight-month study last year. (Dig into that document here.)

Councilors on Tuesday asked lots of questions about potential regulatory hurdles they could help eliminate for childcare providers.

There’s also a growing sense among some councilors that the city needs an office of child and youth development.

  • Councilor Greg Neitzert said directly that the council "needs to fund the person who's going to lead the office of child and youth development."
"We can lead and show the rest of the state that this is a big deal," Neitzert said.

Councilor Alex Jensen — citing the similar costs of college and childcare — noted that the state has an entire board overseeing tech schools, and a separate board for the four year institutions. But there isn’t a statewide board — or even a single person — dedicated to addressing early childhood education in the state. 

"No one is talking about (kids age) 0-2 in a unified effort," Jensen said.

What happens next?

The Regulatory Oversight Committee will meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 23 with plans to hear from the city attorney's office on any city regulations affecting childcare providers, and then the goal is to come back in February with some specific action items.

  • Councilor Rich Merkouris mentioned crafting a job description for someone to lead a new office of child and youth development in that time.