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’Broken’ economics for preschool workers, child care sector

SEATTLE — A dire workforce crisis in a booming U.S. economy is prompting the child care industry to turn to business tactics more closely resembling Wall Street than “Sesame Street.”

There are now noncompete policies for child care workers and families and non-refundable wait list fees for parents seeking day care slots.

Some child care centers offer college tuition incentives for low-paid workers.

Child care centers say they’re struggling to meet seemingly insatiable demand — especially in expensive urban areas like Seattle, New York and San Francisco.

Underlying the phenomenon is a shrinking pool of childcare workers with employers still offering poverty-level pay and skyrocketing demand for high-quality childcare programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says median child care worker pay is $22,000 — less than what parking lot attendants make.