Parents struggle to find care as Thurston County preschool teachers strike

SEATTLE — Affordable and accessible childcare options are a struggle parents are having across the country, and unfortunately, the struggle shows no signs of improving.

One of the problems seems to be unlivable wages for workers. A week ago, Friday and again this past Monday, employees at the Cadence Academy in Lacey on Martin Way went on strike. Employees demand better pay, more resources, and training.

We have learned through employees that tuition at the preschool increases annually and that money isn’t making its way down to their employees. In fact, one employee has publicly shared that she’s only being paid $16.00 per hour, Washington’s minimum wage for reference is $15.24 per hour.

We talked to local parents with soon-to-be preschoolers and met one mom who happens to work in the education field herself. Dasia Ryan told us that if she found out that’s the pay her son’s teachers were getting, “I wouldn’t put my kid in that program because that’s not happy well cared for the staff there’s no longevity there and that’s a disservice to their teachers,” said Ryan

If you’re a parent who has gone through the preschool system or you’re approaching that time you know that monthly tuition really isn’t cheap. In fact, we discovered the average cost for monthly tuition around Puyallup, Bonney Lake, Tacoma, and Auburn was between $1,000 to $1,688. Of course, rates vary by age, program, and whether or not your child attends a half-day or full-day three or more days per week.

“I barely get paid that much so there’s no way that would happen,” said Ryan.

Some schools have waitlists that are over a year long. La Petite in Gem Heights is one of those schools with a waitlist so long, you can’t even get on it. That’s a scenario that’s being seen across the country and because of that Dasia said both she and her husband are worried.

“Kind of panicked hearing about that and signed him up back in February for this other program,” said Dasia.

Luckily Lacey’s mom was able to find a more affordable and available program with her North Thurston school district, the only catch is that it only covers four days a week, leaving one workday open for the family to figure out. But the monthly cost runs closer to $280.

Dasia strongly recommends checking with your local school district about integrated preschool options.

“If you’re on the hunt, and considering a Washington State preschool, you can get a look at the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for a school’s “progress report,” said Dasia.

Yelp and Google are not as reliable but can sometimes be helpful. The best recommendation is to tour a licensed facility for yourself and talk to other parents in your area about their experiences.