TIPTON, Iowa -- Deborah VanderGaast told her employees Tuesday that she would be leaving her daycare in Tipton for a little while. She wanted to be able to deliver a message in person to the visiting Democratic presidential candidate in town.
"If you take away the three or 4-year-olds, we are no longer viable," VanderGaast warned Beto O'Rourke, the former U.S. representative from Texas, during his gathering of about 75 people.
VanderGaast said that her daycare is similar to many others. She said that she loses money on caring for babies because the state requires more employees to care for them since infants require more supervision. VanderGaast explained that it's the older students who require fewer employees to supervise them, where centers make more money to cover their bills. Without the income the center receives from the older students, she doesn't believe her business can survive.
O'Rourke had pitched his idea that he said would bring financial relief to families with young children. He planned to have the federal government pay the cost for preschools across the country for three and 4-year-olds. But afterwards, he told Channel 13 that VanderGaast got his attention by letting him known the realities of his decision. "Absolutely," O'Rourke said, "She wants to make sure that we think through all the consequences of the decision."
O'Rourke also supports more than doubling the current federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which VanderGaast said is also nearly double what she can afford to pay her workers. She said, though, that she agrees her workers deserve more money and hopes the government could find a way to provide more assistance to families and care centers to make that happen.
O'Rourke pledged to stay in touch with VanderGaast to find a solution.