Commissioner Franz Testifies in Support of Bill to Create New Land Trust to Fund Child Care
News Date: 
January 19, 2024

Bill would dedicate Climate Commitment Act funds to acquire land to fund Washington’s child care centers

Conserving Washington’s working forests can provide solutions for the state’s broken child care system, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz testified in support of House Bill 2243 before the Washington State House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this morning, Friday.
The bill, requested by Commissioner Franz’s agency the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and prime sponsored by Rep. Kristine Reeves of Federal Way would create a Child Care Land Trust that would use forests to create permanent revenue for Washington’s child care.
“As a mom of three boys, I struggled too when my kids were growing up. Like so many parents, I had to make choices, difficult ones – about whether to work or stay home, choices I knew would impact my future, and theirs. It was hard then – my boys are off to college now – but it’s only gotten harder for parents today,” said Commissioner Franz. “We have a unique opportunity to save working forests and fund childcare. And it would all be paid for by our largest polluters.”
Using funding from the Climate Commitment Act, the legislation would authorize DNR to purchase working forests at risk of being developed to manage similarly to the 2.1 million acres of working forests the agency currently manages to fund public schools, libraries, fire departments, and other local government services.
“With this bill we have the opportunity to think forward about how we are doing the ‘and both’ of saving our kids, saving our families by providing accessible, affordable child care, and saving our planet and our forests at the same time,” said Rep. Reeves.
Trusts have Served Washington’s Children Since 1889
DNR would acquire and manage land with Climate Commitment Act funding, and sustainably manage that land for uses such as commercial forestry, renewable energy projects, and carbon sequestration credits for reforestation to provide permanent funding for childcare Washington State.
Since Washington’s founding, working forests and farmlands have produced critical funding for education. The trust lands currently managed by DNR generate more than $300 million per year.
An accompanying $100 million from the Natural Climate Solutions Account, part of the Climate Commitment Act, would allow DNR to purchase new lands for the trust. DNR’s Children’s Social Equity Land Trust would creatively meet multiple statewide goals:
  • Conserve working forestlands at risk of conversion
  • Provide greater economic development opportunities for families and reduce or end cycles of poverty in communities with economic disparity
  • Sequester carbon and limit the harmful impacts of global climate change
  • Establish a stable funding source for creating or expanding child care.
Funding for Unfunded Child Care Deserts
The new trust would direct revenue to the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families, which oversees the Childcare Desert Grant Program.
This program has yet to be funded and expires in 2026. These grants may be for one-time costs associated with opening childcare sites in communities considered a childcare desert.
“These grants will make it possible to open childcare sites in communities that are now without,” said Lauren Hipp, national director of early learning and Washington State for MomsRising. “The benefits would be far-reaching and enormous.”
Childcare in Washington averages about $14,500 per year for an infant – ninth highest in the country.
Child care deserts are often found in communities that struggle with health and economic disparities. Lack of access to affordable childcare perpetuates cycles of poverty and inequities.
In 2019, the Washington State Childcare Collaborative Task Force found in their report that 49% of parents in the state found it complicated or very difficult to find, afford, and keep care for their children. Lack of childcare was projected to cost the state $2.1 billion due to employee turnover and missed work and $6.5 billion in direct and opportunity costs.
“We have a childcare crisis in our state,” said Sarah Clark, director of public policy for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Finding childcare is difficult for working families. Parent-employees are often forced to reduce their hours, decline promotion, and even leave the workforce entirely due to a lack of reliable childcare.
“This bill, creating the children’s social equity land trust would generate non-tax revenue to sustainably fund the childcare desert grant program, increase the number of childcare sites and slots, and preserve for natural land in our state.”
The new trust is also intended to reverse the trend of closing childcare providers and facilities. Since 2010, some 2,000 family childcare providers and 300 centers closed across Washington, contributing to an increase in these deserts statewide
“Small towns and rural communities face a significant lack of access to childcare providers, including the need for specialized providers able to provide care outside of a nine-to-five work schedule,” said Amy Anderson, government affairs director for the Association of Washington Business. “Childcare, like housing and transportation, creates the critical infrastructure that the state needs to support our workforce. Childcare is a workforce and economic development issue.”
The TVW broadcast of this morning’s hearing is available here.
Michael Kelly
Communications Director
Cell: 360-878-4217