LA CROSSE Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – La Crosse County officials are trying to come up with ways to improve childcare access for working families. Angie Wells has worked at the Coulee Children’s Center for more than seven years.

She says the center has always had a waiting list of families needing care, and about 200 are currently in line for a slot. While there is space available, there isn’t enough staff to cover it.

“We are licensed for 125 students, and we only have about 92 enrolled, but we’ve hit that teacher to child ratio,” said Wells.

Wells is actively recruiting for the center, but it’s an uphill battle.

“We can’t raise tuition to raise that hourly wage, so we’re competing not only with our childcare counterparts for educators, but we’re also competing with the local school district,” said Wells.

Childcare providers around the Coulee Region are facing the same issue, so the La Crosse County Board is trying to find solutions. A resolution before the board last week called to allocate three million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars towards a care model proposed by the La Crosse school district.

The district planned to provide more slots to the community at two neighborhood sites, but some childcare businesses spoke out against the idea.

“No one asked any childcare providers about how we solve these issues,” said Sherry Picha with Sprout childcare

Picha believes supporting existing providers would be a better use of the ARPA dollars.

“We need to be able to get the centers that do not have that staffing, with their open slots already. To be able to fill them up, sustain what we have so that when we do open more slots, it’s not harming the infrastructure,” said Picha.

The county board postponed its vote on the school district’s childcare proposal until June. In the meantime, providers like Sprout will be involved in the planning process of bolstering childcare in the county.

A group of Coulee Region providers will be meeting tomorrow night to come up with an alternative childcare proposal to send to the County Board.