I am expecting my first child very soon. Like all new moms, I’m getting ready for the big day and the many challenges of parenting. As a two-income family, one of these challenges is finding affordable, quality child care.
My husband and I are already researching childcare options that are right for us. It was an eye-opening experience. The market is saturated. Today there are fewer suppliers because COVID-19 closures have forced many to close their doors. With fewer choices and more parents looking for child care as people shift from remote work to in-person work, the competition is fierce, with wait lists of six months or more limited space to babies and rising costs.
The pandemic has proven that working parents need more flexibility and increased options, like the innovative approaches developed when the pandemic forced parents to find community-based alternatives to traditional child care. These include co-ops or neighborhood pods, where parents take turns providing care or hiring a teacher, sharing a nanny, supporting family members or reorganizing work schedules. Some have been forced to leave the labor market.
Unfortunately, President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress have another approach – one that comes with a high price tag and a wide array of new regulations being imposed on child care providers. While they claim their plan will provide relief to struggling parents, it will reduce childcare options for parents and divert taxpayer dollars from families most in need.
As negotiations on the reconciliation bill continue, a framework released by the White House says it “Ensure that middle-class families do not spend more than 7% of their income on child care. “ Federal grants would be provided on a sliding scale, with families earning less than 75% of the state’s median income paying nothing for child care and families earning up to 250% of the state’s median income. paying no more than 7% of their income for child care.
This sliding scale of grant disbursement “Would be strongly biased in favor of high-income families”, according to Rachel Greszler, researcher at the Heritage Foundation. “For example, a couple earning $ 343,600 in Washington, DC, would receive $ 30,300 in child care grants for two children, while a couple earning $ 53,000 in Mississippi would receive $ 17,600 in child care subsidies. ‘children for two children. “ writes Greszler.
As with everything “free money” which comes from Washington, child care subsidies come with conditions that will ultimately impact care and parents who keep their preferred provider. Suppliers who receive federal funds would be forced to comply with a host of new mandates and regulations, which include wages for workers that are equal to what teachers at local public elementary schools are paid. According to the CATO Institute, “The average national educator is currently paid $ 25,460, compared to $ 60,660 for the average elementary teacher (in other words, the latter earns 138% more). “ The result of this new salary mandate for educators, says Greszler, is “Childcare costs equivalent to double the current per student cost of public education from kindergarten to grade 12”.
Federal funds also come with unique curriculum mandates and new building requirements, further pushing back small vendors and parenting choices. And increased government control increases the power of politicians and bureaucrats to force vendors to shut down.
It is also deeply unfair to parents who will not receive any subsidy because they forgo two incomes (or independents) so that one can stay at home, who send their children to a religious provider who cannot comply. mandates imposed by the government, or who are unable to find a “Government approved” provider.
Congress would fund this new government overreach with a bait and switch approach we’ve seen before. Their goal is to encourage states and families to participate in the program, increase reliance on public funds, and then, as costs rise and choices shrink, force states and future Congresses to pick up the financial pieces. It is a recipe for disaster, especially for families.
The pandemic has proven that working mothers and fathers need more flexibility, not less, including denominational options. Let’s learn from these lessons and increase choice and flexibility instead of creating a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, states should check childcare regulations and eliminate those that are costly, cumbersome, and do nothing to improve the safety or outcomes of care, including those that limit the supply of service providers. home care. States should prioritize the role of family and communities and empower parents to make the best decisions for their children.
The proposal submitted to Congress does not prioritize families. This would create a new two tier system that would reduce affordable options, especially for low income families, and lead to a decrease in the quality of care. It should be rejected.
Erica Jedynak is a Senior Advisor to Americans for Prosperity.