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Gov. Tony Evers visits Miles of Smiles Daycare in Westby on Monday - contributed photo

Gov. Evers visits child care providers in Waupaca and Westby, urges release of funds to support Wisconsin’s child care industry

WESTBY, Wis. — on Monday, July 8, Gov. Tony Evers visited child care providers in Waupaca and Westby to highlight the one-year anniversary of enacting the 2023-25 biennial budget and to continue urging Republican lawmakers to release $15 million that was approved in the biennial budget to support child care providers and working families across Wisconsin.

State Senator Brad Pfaff, Miles of Smiles Daycare Owner Ashley Lium, Governor Tony Evers, Westby Schools District Administrator Steve Michaels, Westby Mayor Danny Helgerson

The Governor made a stop at the Miles of Smiles Childcare Center in Westby. Earlier this year, Miles of Smiles announced they will be partnering with the Westby Area School District to open a second location at the Westby District office building in the local high school using one-time federal funds to help address the shortage of child care providers in the region. According to the district, the effort to open a child care center within the district’s facilities was motivated by the lack of child care options in the area. Notably, last year, Gov. Evers highlighted a child care center and the only child care center in nearby Cashton that closed its doors due to funding cuts.

Westby Schools District Administrator Steve Michaels posted information about the school districts partnership with Miles of Smiles and how it came about.

“For years, we have been aware of the shortage of childcare in our region,” said Michaels. “This has been exacerbated recently by the closing of a center just down the road in Cashton.  During this time, we have been studying child care centers that have operated inside schools. What we have learned is that schools do school well and that child care providers do child care well.  When schools attempt to ‘run’ child care centers, very few do so in a way that is cost effective. Though the district is open to partnering where efficiencies can be found, the business of child care is going to be managed by a business who knows how to do this.”

Michaels said the they had three classrooms that were currently being used for storage and out a request for proposals to see if there was interest in using the space to provide daycare services.

“With minimal investment in doors, bathroom updates, and exterior fencing, we are making these spaces compliant for use by child care providers,” said Michaels. “We are using one-time federal grant money to pay for this project so that costs will not be passed on to our local taxpayers. A reasonable rent will be charged for room usage which will offset these expenses over time.”

Governor Tony Evers and State Senator Brad Pfaff touring Miles of Smiles Daycare in Westby on Monday, July 8

Gov. Evers also visited My First Adventure Child Care and Preschool in Waupaca. My First Adventure Child Care and Preschool recently announced that after eight years in business, they are permanently closing their doors due to issues facing the industry, including low compensation, staffing shortages, and uncertainty surrounding the future of stabilization funding. According to reporting from the Appleton Post Crescent, much of Waupaca County is considered a child care desert, and My First Adventure Child Care and Preschool is currently one of six licensed group centers in the city.

Gov. Evers enacted the 2023-25 biennial budget creating a $15 million child care fund appropriation at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for child care providers. Under a request submitted by Gov. Evers to the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance, the $15 million would be directed to support the successful Child Care Counts Program in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. To date, Child Care Counts has helped over 4,700 child care providers keep their doors open, ensuring the employment of more than 54,000 child care professionals and allowing providers to continue to provide high-quality care to more than 295,000 kids.

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