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Newly launched scholarship program would increase child care access

Newly launched scholarship program would increase child care access

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Distance Learning

Second grade student Bryce Machacek, uses an online education program in March to practice geography while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An Aug. 21 order from Public Health Madison & Dane County only allows in-person schooling for grades K-2 at both public and private schools until certain metrics are reached.


A collaborative effort between Madison, the school district and the United Way of Dane County is underway to raise funds for a scholarship program that aims to provide over 100 children with free full-time programming in the absence of in-person school.

Madison Metropolitan School District’s plans for virtual instruction through at least October means many families need to seek alternative child care arrangements as parents and caregivers balance work and their children. An Aug. 21 order from Public Health Madison & Dane County only allows in-person schooling for grades K-2 at both public and private schools until certain metrics are reached.

“We know that virtual instruction presents unique challenges to families, especially those with limited means or other barriers to success,” said Coral Manning, the city’s early care and education manager, at a press conference Thursday. 

The Child Care Scholarship Fund hopes to raise $400,000 to provide 150 children free full-time child care.

“It is imperative that our business and philanthropic partners come to the table to help contribute to this community challenge and invest in our youngest residents, so that we are doing all we can to mitigate the impact that virtual learning could have on our most vulnerable residents if they can not access the supports they need to be academically successful this year,” Manning said. 

[School’s almost back. Here’s what Madison and its largest employers are doing about it.]

Stepping up to the challenge, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce called on businesses to support the scholarship fund. 

“We often talk about Greater Madison’s economy as a tent, with major industries representing tent poles. Standing these poles up requires critical supports, and one of those is child care,” Chamber President Zach Brandon said in a statement. “We will never be able to stand our economy back up without greater access to child care.”

Currently, the school district and Madison School & Community Recreation are providing child care in 16 elementary schools and at the Allied Learning Center. Licensed community child care providers are using an additional 13 district buildings for programming, and 11 community organizations are providing in-person and virtual support for elementary-aged children. 

Manning said there are an estimated 1,800 slots for students in-person with the majority of them reserved for low-income families. Because community child care providers cannot offset the cost of the programming in the same way the school district does, Manning said there’s a $500,000 gap. 

To help fill that gap, the city made $100,000 in scholarships available on Aug. 17 but has since received over $200,000 in requests.   

MMSD Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said accessing “adequate, affordable and safe child care” is a significant, daily challenge local families now face because of the pandemic. 

“As a community, we are all in this together, and meaningful initiatives like the Child Care Scholarship Fund can truly make a difference in providing an essential service to our neighbors who need it the most,” Jenkins said in a statement.   

Donations can be made by contacting the United Way of Dane County or visiting this link.

“United Way of Dane County frames issues, mobilizes resources and is accountable for results, and we know that child care is one of the needs of families with school aged children during this pandemic,” Renee Moe, President & CEO of United Way of Dane County, said in the statement. 

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