OPINION: New fund will benefit children, families, employers and the Anchorage economy

In April 2023, Anchorage voters passed Proposition 14, permanently setting aside the municipality’s marijuana tax revenue to fund child care and early education programs. This new fund, known as the Anchorage Child Care and Early Education (ACCEE) Fund, will be Anchorage’s most comprehensive and reliable investment in child care and early education to date.

Its passage came not a moment too soon. Since 2019, the number of licensed child care programs in Alaska has dropped by 20%, and for the first time in 20 years there are fewer than 200 licensed programs in Anchorage. As families, employers, and businesses know too well, the lack of affordable care options is negatively impacting families, our workforce, and our economy. In fact, more than half of Alaska’s families cannot fully participate in the labor force due to the cost, availability or quality of child care options.

The ACCEE fund will generate approximately $5 million annually, with funds being disbursed starting in 2025. While the Fund will not be enough to meet all the needs of the chronically underfunded system, it will allow the Municipality to make innovative, valuable investments into the sector, supporting families and the economy in the process.

The ACCEE Fund Implementation Team — a team of experts, elected officials, providers, business and military representatives, parents and others — has been exploring the most strategic and effective uses for the funding. Beyond evaluating national trends, particularly effective Alaskan programs, and opportunities to leverage the limited funding available, the Implementation Team has been actively seeking feedback from the public on how the funds should be spent. Over the course of the past few months, the Implementation Team hosted nearly a dozen community conversations for parents, providers and others across the Municipality, including in Eagle River and Girdwood. The Implementation Team also conducted a survey, which yielded over 400 responses.

What we’ve heard loud and clear from the public — as the top response in our survey, in our many community conversations, and from others as we’ve been engaging in this work — is that provider wages and benefits need to improve to stabilize the sector. The average child care worker in Alaska makes less than $30,000 a year, and families of providers are more than twice as likely to live in poverty. The truth is that while child care and early education providers love their jobs and love children, many of them simply can’t afford to keep doing what they love.

The Implementation Team has explored a number of initial ideas for funding, including wage and benefit subsidies; providing free child care for providers’ children to support the existing workforce and recruit additional, desperately needed caregivers; partnering with businesses and other employers to provide start-up costs and technical assistance for new child care and early education programs; funding capital investments; and several other concepts, many of which have been successful in other parts of the state and country.

In the coming months, the Implementation Team will be evaluating these possible funding options. The team will bring a suggested funding package that reflects best practices as well as public priorities to the ACCEE Fund Accountability Board. The board, established by Proposition 14, will likely be seated beginning this summer. This board will determine the annual draft budget for the ACCEE Fund, starting with the 2025 budget proposal it will present to the mayor and Anchorage Assembly this fall. In addition to putting together a draft funding package, the Implementation Team is also working on an ordinance that it will present to the Anchorage Assembly describing the responsibilities, composition, and operations of the ACCEE Fund Accountability Board.


The Implementation Team has been hard at work, and a big part of that work has been listening to feedback from Anchorage residents. We look forward to — in partnership with families, parents, providers, and businesses — identifying the most strategic uses of the fund and improving this essential sector.

Jessica Simonsen is an ACCEE Fund Implementation Team parent member and co-chair.

Trevor Storrs serves as ACCEE Fund Implementation Team co-chair and president and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust.

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