If Fertile has more licensed child care options than Crookston, there's a problem.

    The author of a comprehensive housing study for Crookston and some smaller towns nearby, in presenting recently the data resulting from the research conducted by his firm as part of the study, was especially effusive in praising all kinds of things that he said the Crookston community has going for it.

    But in mentioning the town of Fertile, located about 20 miles down Highway 102 from Crookston, the study author noted his surprise at the fact that the town with a population that doesn’t even reach 1,000 people is home to more licensed child care providers than Crookston.

    That’s stunning. And for Crookston leaders who have increasing the number of licensed child care slots in Crookston high on their list of things to do, that fact should be the driving force behind their efforts. Nothing against Fertile, that pretty little town with that sweet golf course, but Crookston should have significantly more child care options for its residents than Fertile.

    People, especially the powers-that-be who are charged with making important decisions, love to casually toss dramatic words around like “crisis” and “emergency.” But the shortage of licensed child care providers in Minnesota, especially in rural communities, seems to be at least bordering on a crisis or emergency. People looking for jobs and a place to call home early on in their scoping out of a community are going to see if they’ll be able to secure quality, affordable child care. If they can’t, they’re going to move on.

    Providers who have made a career out of caring for children in their homes or in daycare centers are retiring at a rapid rate. “In droves” is how the St. Paul Pioneer Press put it in a recent story, and the number of younger people willing and/or able to enter the profession or stay in it once they’ve started is coming up woefully short when it comes to balancing out everyone who’s retiring or otherwise leaving the profession.

    Minnesota, for better or worse, is known as a state that likes to regulate many facets of society, but mostly when it comes to business. And when we hear about the main driving factors behind this child care shortage, overburdensome and/or unnecessary rules and regulations are seemingly mentioned more often than anything else.

    So the Minnesota Legislature is trying to help ease some of the regulations that even a pro-big government and pro-regulations person might think are a bit over the top. Like the rule that requires other kids in a home daycare related to the provider – like a teen son, for example – having to be photographed and fingerprinted. Who’d want to get into a business in which you have to expose your family to such guilty-until-you’re-proven-innocent nonsense?

    But this is an ocean-sized problem. Tweaking some regulations will create a ripple, at the most. Anti-government regulations Republicans and pro-spending Democrats are going to have to work together to come up with something meaningful that turns this urgent problem around and gets it trending in the right direction.