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One of McLean County’s strengths is a deep commitment to workforce development through the COMPACT board and council as a key strategy of the BN Advantage initiative. Area employers, educators, governmental representatives, and public and private institutions meet regularly to discuss how best to shape and support a solid workforce today — and tomorrow.

I recently saw one path to that strong workforce reflected in a report by the business-leader nonprofit ReadyNation. The report focused on connections between high quality child care and economic stability. This is timely research in Illinois, considering the lingering effects of 2015-17 reductions in working parents’ eligibility for child care assistance.

Although bipartisan efforts have reversed those cuts, the system has been slow to recover; caseloads remain about 30,000 children shy of customary levels. So, as lawmakers determine state budget parameters for the coming year, I’d urge them to protect and strengthen child care.

A nationwide poll in 2016 found that nearly one of three parents reported difficulty securing child care, according to the ReadyNation report. Furthermore, when struggling parents lack affordable, reliable child care options, workplace absenteeism increases. In other cases, “presentee-ism” is the result, meaning parents are on the job, but distracted. Either way, productivity suffers.

Plus, without child care, thousands of young children lack access to the early learning programs that can give them a jump on preparing for success in school — and later, in their careers.

Bob Miller, Normal

Writer is chair of the COMPACT board

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