Sen. Patty Murray visited Western to meet with student-parents and talk about a new bill that aims to create more accessible child care options on Tuesday, May 1.The Child Care for Working Families Act would reduce child care costs for working low- and middle-income families.Murray spent the first part of her visit touring the Associated Students Child Development Center, where she met with teaching staff and about 60 children.Among them were children with parents who currently attend Western.Stephanie Oppelaar, owner of Black Drop Coffeehouse and a mother of two, has been completing a biology degree for the past six years. She takes classes off and on while taking care of her two daughters.
“Finding care was next to impossible,” Oppelaar said.Oppelaar said she was planning to take more time off from Western for this academic year, but then received the call that nearly 100 children wait for: her daughter was offered a spot at the Child Development Center. Kari Krout, program manager, said there is a two-year waitlist to get a spot at the Child Development Center.Oppelaar said being able to send her daughter to an affordable and safe place made all the difference.“I’m a better student because I know my kids are okay,” Oppelaar said.Evaristo Solano, another student-parent, said he works from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. so he can have dinner with his family after attending class all day. Solano, who commutes by bus from Mount Vernon, said he is happy that his daughter is able to attend the Child Development Center.His older son used to be watched by friends when he and his wife were at work, but Solano said he felt a preschool could provide his children with an education while they were being watched.“Home child care just doesn’t have what the CDC is offering,” Solano said.Murray said students like Oppelaar and Solano are the people who will benefit the most from the Child Care for Working Families Act.“I hear, everywhere I go, from people about their inability to achieve their own dreams, to be able to go to work, to be able to care for their families because of the barrier of getting access to affordable child care,” Murray said.Murray’s bill would propose that no guardian would pay more than 7 percent of their income towards child care.Patty Bautista, an early childhood education major, said the work Murray has done will benefit every working family.“This bill is everything,” she said.Bautista, a Child Development Center employee, said she didn’t grow up with affordable child care. Her mother and father would take odd-timed shifts to ensure that someone was always home with her and her siblings.“This bill will help children, and our children are our future,” she said.