Program's aim: Affordable child care for UA employees

By Charles Ratliff
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 12, 1996

Karen Tully
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Whitney Slay (foreground) and Meghan Baker, both 4, swing in the playground at Hand in Hand preschool on UA campus. The Office of Childcare Initiatives recently gave the preschool vouchers that help provide affordable child care to UA employees.


Beginning this month, the UA will pilot a six-month program to help employees subsidize their child care costs.

The Office of Child Care Initiatives within the University of Arizona's Human Resources department has been given $50,000 by the university for the program, said Mimi Gray, the office's coordinator.

Gray said the idea germinated about a year and a half ago when she was hired by the UA to "get something going for UA employees and students" in the area of child care.

She said the pilot program's main goal was to ensure that employees could afford the child care offered locally.

"Affordability is a key issue here," Gray said. "The goal is to reduce the amount of household income that goes to quality child care."

Gray said her office has sent out over 200 applications since word about the program leaked out before Christmas.

According to a memo that the office of Human Resources circulated last month, in order to apply an employee must:

Gray said she will try to make the program as fair as possible for all income groups.

"If you look at the cost of care in Tucson as compared to other areas in the country, it is really modest," Gray said. "The thing about this program is it makes the dollar go a lot farther."

Gray said this type of program helps increase the quality of child care locally, since it pumps money into the community's system. Money that is spent toward better wages for child care teachers, Gray said.

Elizabeth Boccardo, director of Hand in Hand, the child care center at 1621 East First St. on the UA campus, said that the voucher program shows that the university is supporting its employees' child-care needs.

Boccardo said Hand in Hand serves mainly the UA community, but added, "We have a real mixture because of our central location."

There are many companies that provide on-site child care, she said. The UA does not provide it, so Hand in Hand is available to help meet students' and employees' child-care needs, Boccardo said.

Gray said her office is not concerned only with employees, but she would also like to see a program in place for students.

"Now the big question is, 'Gee, why can't we do this for students?'" she said.

Gray said she has set aside $5,000 from her office budget to jump- start a program of assistance for full-time students.

"Student government needs to take a closer look at this issue," Gray said. She said she understood that ASUA had debated this issue several times over the last few years, but now it was time to look at where the program could acquire the money to get it g oing.

ASUA president Ben Driggs said the student government's budget has already been set for this year and that he does not have any money for such a program right now, but said he likes the idea.

"The voucher idea is the right idea for students at the UA," Driggs said. "This is something ASUA needs to keep on top of."

Driggs said the Graduate and Professional Student Council and the Undergraduate Senate, both within ASUA, would have greater power to create a voucher program for students.

Each of those organizations has been allocated approximately $26,000 in discretionary money that can be used toward a voucher program.

"The big push is getting the dollars for the student side," Gray said, adding that the $5,000 will be doled out to the neediest first; in this case, full-time students drawing full financial aid would qualify for assistance. "It's a very modest effort," G ray said.