DANVILLE — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey visited the Danville Child Development Center for the first time Monday to gain insight into the cost of providing high-quality child care and to discuss two bills he co-sponsors to decrease the cost of child care.

The average cost for full-time center-based daycare in Pennsylvania is $11,560 per year for an infant and $8,712 for a 4-year-old, he said, citing Child Care Aware.

This amounts to about 12 percent of the annual income for married couples and nearly 46 percent of the annual income for a single parent, he said.

Casey said the country has done little nationally to help parents bring child care costs down to 7 percent or less for families with less than 150 percent of their state's median income.

Bills he co-sponsors are Senate Bill 568 the Child Care for Working Families Act and Senate Bill 931 the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Enhancement Act 931.  

"As a nation, we haven't made the kind of priority for people who do the work. We have to treat them like the professionals we claim they should be," Casey said. 

Center Executive Director Diana Verbeck said the annual costs to care for an infant at the center are $18,000, $14,000 for a toddler, $12,000 for a preschooler and $6,454 for a school-age child. Private tuition costs range from $13,234 to $6,840 with subsidy reimbursements ranging from $11,427 to $6,884 for those age groups. 

She said the centers, on Wall Street and on Bloom Road, break even most years. DCDC has a $750,000 mortgage on the Bloom Road facility of nearly $7,500 a month for 20 years, she said.

Fundraising and grants make up 4 percent of the center's $2 million budget, Verbeck said. The center's large annual event brings in $15,000, she said. Salaries amount to 65 percent of the annual budget and health insurance is 15 percent of the budget.

The two centers enroll 265 children with classroom waiting lists for infants and young toddlers, toddlers and preschoolers.

Verbeck said the starting wage for a teacher with a four-year degree is $11.50 per hour and $9 per hour for a teacher with a two-year degree. She said 70 percent of the 31 full-time and 10 part-time staff members have degrees. They have been looking for a teacher with a bachelor's degree in elementary education or early childhood since October, she said.

"We don't want to charge our families anymore. We have to pay our staff," Verbeck said.

Center Enrollment Director Lori McDonnell said the center's school-age program has 80 children enrolled for this summer.

Casey said the last tax bill that was passed allowed single mothers, who make minimum wage, to gain $75 for a child tax credit. 

His tax credit bill would increase the maximum credit from $1,050 to $3,000 per child up to age 13, or up to $6,000. The bill would make the full credit available to families with incomes of less than $120,000 with the current phase-down of credit beginning at $15,000. 

The working families bill would ensure no family would pay more than 7 percent of its household income for child care if they earn less than 150 percent of their state's median income; support universal access to high-quality preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds; improve compensation by ensuring all child care workers are paid a living wage and early childhood educators have parity with elementary school teachers with similar credentials and experience; build more inclusive, high-quality child care providers for children with disabilities; and help Head Start programs meet new expanded duration requirements.

Cutting the corporate tax rate by fewer than 1 point would pay for this, he said.

"We will keep pressing this during the presidential campaign," Casey said. 

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