MON AM News: Madison College, United Way leaders discuss child care solutions; MadREP calling on residents to review FCC broadband map

— Leaders of Madison College and United Way of Dane County say employers in Wisconsin have a role to play in addressing the state’s child care challenges. 

Speaking during a recent webinar hosted by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Dane County Vice President of Community Impact Jody Bartnick discussed ways that businesses can help support local child care without needing to launch their own program. 

“They can subsidize buildings, they can subsidize rent … I’ve heard examples of subsidizing heat for child care programs,” she said. “So there’s lots of really creative ways that businesses can step in, and communities can step in, and help offset those costs. Because there’s a tremendous amount of operational costs that goes into running child care programs.” 

Bartnick and Madison College President Jack Daniels III agreed the current system for providing child care in Wisconsin is broken, with industry workers being paid too little while child care services remain prohibitively expensive for many state residents. 

State officials in October announced Wisconsin is getting $15 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to help boost the early childhood education and child care workforce. In a release announcing this grant, the state Department of Workforce Development highlighted the “significant challenges Wisconsin residents face in securing accessible, affordable, and high-quality childcare” as a major workforce concern. 

Daniels said more public-private partnerships could help address these issues, noting the lack of affordable child care options is impacting businesses’ ability to attract and retain workers. 

“If you’re going to talk about retention of employees — and in many aspects, attracting employees — do you have the accessibility to quality child care?” he said. “And that’s huge for both employers as well as us as an educational institution.” 

But despite the critical importance of child care for the economy, the pay for workers is among the lowest of any industry in the nation, Bartnick said. 

“Lower than fast food restaurants, lower than the gas station industry — lower than industries that require less professional development and educational requirements,” she said. 

Daniels noted this issue is keeping workers from considering child care and early childhood education as a valid career path. 

He also said businesses and organizations that have vacant or “underutilized” real estate could leverage those resources to support the child care industry. But he added more resources will need to be allocated to ensure that extra space can be used effectively. 

“I think that the idea really has a lot of legs and good viability,” he said. 

Watch the full discussion here: 

See an earlier story on this issue: 

— The Madison Region Economic Partnership is calling on state residents to ensure a new FCC broadband map accurately reflects their internet access. 

The federal agency last month released a draft of a national map showing broadband access levels around the country. In a recent press release, MadREP Vice President of Talent and Education Gene Dalhoff urged residents of south central Wisconsin to “visit the new FCC map and make sure it correctly reflects the access available at your homes.” 

According to the release, the deadline to submit a “challenge” or correction to the map is Jan. 13. MadREP notes three types of challenges can be submitted: availability challenges, mobile availability challenges and location challenges. 

“If areas are incorrectly finalized as having access they do not, it will jeopardize the Madison Region’s ability to access federal support for broad infrastructure,” Dalhoff said. 

The federal Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program includes $42 billion for broadband expansion, the release notes. 

See more details here: 

See the FCC map: 

— The Midwest Renewable Energy Association expects state utility regulators to approve the group’s petition on third-party financing for solar projects following a recent decision on a similar case. 

But another group warns of future legal action, calling the PSC decision an overreach.

The state Public Service Commission last week approved 2-1 a petition from a California-based group called Vote Solar related to financing for a small solar project in Stevens Point. In an emailed statement, MREA Executive Director Nick Hylla applauded the ruling, arguing it “simply recognizes that existing law should not be misinterpreted as a means to interfere with” how homes and businesses in the state finance on-site solar projects. 

“The petition from the MREA is similar to the petition that was just ruled on and we would expect a similar interpretation of state law based on similar facts,” he said. 

In approving Vote Solar’s petition, the PSC ruled that the owner of the solar project shouldn’t be regulated as a public utility under state law due to this project. While advocates say the ruling is narrow and only pertains to this specific project, the Wisconsin Utilities Association warns the decision “opens the door to a wider effort” to deregulate solar energy and puts customers at risk. 

Hylla said all parties in the similar MREA case recently filed their final briefs, expecting a decision could come “anytime in the next few weeks.” 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association is calling the PSC’s decision “an overreach on an issue that is outside of their jurisdiction” and warns of potential legal action. 

“We anticipate this decision will end up in the courts on appeal, and we will continue our fight for fair protections for all electric cooperatives and their members,” the group said in a recent statement. 

See the WECA release: 

See more on the Vote Solar case: 

— The state chapter of the Sierra Club is slamming the PSC for approving a rate increase for We Energies’ electric and natural gas customers. 

Cassie Steiner-Bouxa, the chapter’s senior campaign coordinator, says the organization appreciates that the state agency moved to reduce the amount of profits that We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service can collect. But she said the Sierra Club is “very disappointed that they have landed on such a significant increase.” 

The PSC last week approved a request for a rate increase of 10.9 percent for electric and 9 percent for gas for We Energies customers, according to the Sierra Club. 

But Brendan Conway, a spokesperson for We Energies and WPS parent company WEC Energy Group, said the utilities are waiting for the commission’s full written order to gauge the decision’s impact. 

“A significant number of items were decided Thursday by members of the Public Service Commission,” he said in an email. “Given all these decision points, we will simply need to wait to see the order to determine the full impact. Given past practice, we expect the commission to issue their written order in a few weeks.” 

He noted the companies’ typical residential customer bill will remain below the national average. But Steiner-Bouxa said “people are struggling right now.” 

“From the cost of groceries to gas, everyday costs and basic necessities are adding up,” she said. “This rate increase will only make it more difficult for residents to afford their basic needs, specifically marginalized communities.” 

See an earlier story on the We Energies rate increase: 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— The head of the Wisconsin Bankers Association says the latest federal figures “continue to highlight the strength” of banks in the state. 

“With recessionary concerns still top of mind, Wisconsin consumers and business owners can continue to rely on their banks as a source of trusted financial partnership and a safe place to deposit their money,” WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels said in a statement.  

According to the group’s release, the third-quarter FDIC figures show loan defaults remain at historically low levels. 

Meanwhile, residential loan demand was 5.25 percent higher over the quarter and 10.23 percent higher over the year. That’s in spite of rising interest rates and “due in part to home prices coming down,” WBA notes. 

And while commercial lending was 10.04 percent higher over the year, the 2.25 percent increase over the quarter reflects business owners holding off on borrowing “due to midterm election uncertainty and recession concerns,” according to WBA. 

See more in the release: 


# Wisconsin utility regulators approve rate hikes for We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service

# ‘The entryway to our future’: MMSD seniors building career path app

# Advocate Aurora, Atrium complete deal to become fifth-largest U.S. health system



– Class III milk price announced at $21.01 during November

– Real Christmas tree sales are booming


– Milwaukee mayor, Hines officials break ground on 31-story downtown tower

– See construction progress of 31-story Third Ward apartment tower: Slideshow


– EPA seeks to mandate more use of ethanol, other biofuels

– Spray-painted house in Janesville highlights affordable housing crisis


– Community rallies around saving Japanese, Hmong language programs


– Wisconsin NRCS launches new website


– Wisconsin-based company to boost production of critical isotope for health care industry

– Advocate Aurora Health completes merger with Atrium

– Wisconsin’s law on substance use in pregnancy is wrong, leading doctors say

– Policing pregnancy: Wisconsin’s ‘fetal protection’ law, one of the nation’s most punitive, forces women into treatment or jail


– CNH Industrial strike continues at Racine, Burlington plants


– Generac facing securities lawsuit following alleged sale of defective solar product


– Brewers promote Marti Wronski to COO


– Copper Turtle Brewery plans for late December opening


– Affordable housing proposal faces tough review from Urban Design Commission

– Hines celebrates apartment tower progress with ceremonial groundbreaking


– Evers administration seeks OK to start new PFAS regulations


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

RENEW Wisconsin: Regulators allow Wisconsin family to host third-party-owned solar system

Wisconsin Bankers Association: Wisconsin banks remained strong in Q3 2022 despite uncertain economic outlook