Parents will tell you quality child care options are hard to come by and even harder for many to afford in Austin.

Tuesday, Austin City Council will get a breakdown of what it can do to help ease that burden, by looking at city property, private partnerships and policy changes.

KXAN spoke with a mother who knows the struggle. 

“A budget is a real factor for all of us that are working,” Sara O’Connor said. 

Sara and her husband have two children, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old.

“We leave our house around 6:30 to drive them from northwest Austin to Pflugerville and then I drive downtown to my job here in Austin,” O’Connor told KXAN. 

She and her husband found a place they trust, with hours that work, after crossing about seven others off the list.  “It’s worth the drive and it’s worth getting up in the dark to have them with somebody we feel comfortable with,” O’Connor said. 

Another factor is cost. 

“Like do we join Costco and buy your water bottles 200 at a time? Stuff like that that we hadn’t entertained before,” she said. “You work but you ultimately give the majority of your money back to the child care facility that you choose.” 

Her family lives by the mentality, “You make it work.” But there’s work Council Member Delia Garza says the city can be doing to help. 

“I think some low hanging fruit are policies. For example, because of our zoning, there’s just — child care’s not allowed in some areas,” Garza said. “One thing we can do is allow child care as a use in more zoning categories.” 

Another option is expanding partnerships with Austin Independent School District to use under-utilized classrooms for child care as well as looking at city-owned facilities. 

“My guess would be if we were able to get bond funding to build a child care facility, the city would then find a contractor to run that facility,” Garza said. “Capital Metro actually has an onsite childcare facility but it’s not run by CapMetro, it’s run by someone that they contract out with.” 

Another idea expected to be presented is an affordable, high-quality child care center as part of the proposed Dove Springs Health Center in the 2018 bond package within the proposed square footage and estimated construction costs.

“Families are leaving Austin, we’re seeing under-enrollment in our public schools and I think, unfortunately, there is a shortage here and we need to try to do whatever we can to address it,” Garza said. 

Expanding Pre-K to three-year-olds is also on the list. Right now it is only offered to four-year-olds. The proposal states if $112,000 in state funding is leveraged per classroom, Pre-K could be expanded to eight AISD classrooms and three in Pflugerville. AISD is waiting for city funding, and if that’s granted they could add the Pre-K classes this fall.

Staff will present the data to council members at Tuesday’s work session. 

Presentation High Quality Child Care & Pre-k 3 by kxanwebteam on Scribd

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