John Klar: Vermont child care bill hurts child care

U.S. Department of Education

Perhaps Vermont should pay parents to stay home and care for their own children. Many of them would earn a higher wage than they earn in their out-of-home jobs, there would be no need for state regulations and oversight, and fossil fuels would be saved — the parent will stay home from work; the child not be driven to hard-to-find daycare.

The Vermont Senate Committee on Health and Welfare has advanced childcare legislation that is predicted to cost about $160 million in the first year beginning 2025. S.56 would expand family eligibility and provider payments in the Child Care Financial Assistance Program, establish a program to provide child care assistance to non-citizens, and create workforce retention grants. It is questionable whether this will achieve the results desired.

The availability of sufficient daycare services in Vermont has been declining for years, particularly since the state increased the regulations and standards for home-based providers in 2014. As VPR reported:

While it expanded opportunities for home-based centers to use some of the public money, it raised the standards and requirements for the home-based centers. And in 2016 the Child Development Division of the Agency of Human Services increased the licensing requirements for all childcare programs in the state.

Many daycare providers have complained that the rules, contained in a 112-page regulation manual, impose higher requirements for education and training, and are unduly burdensome:

Vermont lost home-based child care programs about twice as fast after new regulations were announced, according to preliminary data. … The new regulations come as many Vermont families struggle to find affordable high-quality child care.

Progressive legislators are deaf to these impacts on home-care services. A 2019 Secretary of Education Report concluded higher training requirements hurt private providers: 

Both public and private programs perceived that public programs tend to draw higher quality teachers than do private programs, due to their ability to offer substantially higher salaries…. In contrast, private programs struggle to attract AOE ECE/ECSE licensed educators.

The report also acknowledged the harms inflicted by overregulation:

The vast majority of public school programs have found it redundant and inefficient to ensure that their PreK programs comply with two sets of regulations — those required by the public school system and the state’s Child Care Licensing Regulations.

Vermont’s bureaucratic agencies have admitted the obvious for years — that their heavy-handed laws have closed down private daycare services — but then employ the deficiency of services they have caused as justification to increase spending, regulation, and government control. This is apparent in the 2019 report, which acknowledged that “almost every private PreK program said they struggle to hire and retain an AOE licensed early childhood educator with the appropriate credentials” and that the “body of research does not offer a consistent pattern of findings that would lend strong support to the assertion of a positive association between teacher qualifications and outcomes for PreK children.”

But the Report then promptly justified mandating it anyway:

Readers of the interim report, and authors of many of the cited studies, expressed surprise that the research has not documented a reliable association between teachers’ attainment of a bachelor’s degree and gains for children enrolled in such classrooms. Some researchers have suggested that, regardless of the true association between teacher education and classroom quality, there may be other valid reasons to require lead PreK teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. Setting the BA as a minimum standard could help to professionalize the field of early childhood education, thereby raising societal awareness and expectations for PreK to the same level as K–12 education.

Translation: It is clear our standards hurt private daycares and don’t benefit children, but we should damn those torpedoes and just do it anyway.

Small wonder there was a 25% drop in childcare availability in merely three years:

There were 204 fewer home providers in 2018 compared to 2015…. That could be because state regulations are perceived to be too onerous, or because low unemployment is steering people away from the field, where wages and profit margins are notoriously low.

Rebecca Holcombe, former secretary of the Vermont Agency of Education, agreed in 2019:

State efforts to increase training opportunities have done little to stem the exodus of skill to larger programs. We’ve invested substantial new resources in early care and learning, yet have fewer spots and pronounced child care “deserts.”

Fewer facilities caused child care costs to increase, putting greater pressure on parents. More, recent studies have shown that pre-K education is not necessarily beneficial for children. A long-term Tennessee study of 3,000 children concluded:

Economically disadvantaged children who attended Tennessee’s public pre-K program a decade ago are still faring worse in school than their peers who didn’t participate, according to the latest findings from an ongoing study. … Long term, the students logged slightly poorer academic achievement and higher numbers of disciplinary infractions and special education referrals, the study shows. The results… fly in the face — again — of conventional wisdom about the power of pre-K.

These facts have deterred Vermont’s progressive supermajority from plunging full steam ahead. H.56 will cost a fortune, including $2,000,000 for non-citizen pre-K, ensuring that every child (and daycare facility) will be left behind. H.56 Budget Draft 8.2 forecasts spending of $98,055,000 in FY 2024, and $197,475,000 in FY 2025. These numbers are extraordinarily high because much of the money (like universal school lunches) will be directed to high-income taxpayers:

The bill provides full reimbursement for those making up to 185% of the federal poverty level (FPL) compared to the current 150% of FPL and then reimburses on a sliding scale up to 600% FPL or about $180,000 for a family of four.  The bill also includes $7.3 million in grants distributed by the Department of Children and Families to retain childcare workers. 

Perhaps Vermont should pay parents to stay home and care for their own children. Many of them would earn a higher wage than they earn in their out-of-home jobs, there would be no need for state regulations and oversight, and fossil fuels would be saved — the parent will stay home from work; the child not be driven to hard-to-find daycare. 

Vermont now pays addicts who use drugs to attend therapy; surely it would be preferable to help mothers and fathers raise their own children rather than enlarge Vermont’s unsustainable bureaucracy by $300 million over two years. Parents who homeschool could also be paid the money being spent ($30 million annually) to provide industrial food to children through public schools. As currently operated, parents who raise or feed their own children must then also pay higher taxes to support those who don’t — including people who earn $180,000 per year. (Not very equitable.) 

After passing laws that closed down private daycares, Vermont Progressives seek to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize daycare for people who earn six times the national poverty level. In her article titled “Money alone won’t solve Vermont’s childcare problem,” Holcombe sensibly noted:

What we know about markets, whether they involve health care or child care, is that if we don’t get the incentives right, substantial new public investments can lead to higher taxpayer costs, but not expanded access to quality, affordable care, especially where it is most needed.

H.56 proves Ms. Holcombe correct — meddling in markets to expand bureaucracy has gutted Vermont’s private daycare providers, stressed parents financially, and led to fewer children receiving pre-K care. All there is to show for it is much higher taxpayer costs.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2023. All rights reserved.

Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Education

2 thoughts on “John Klar: Vermont child care bill hurts child care

  1. Why is MY TAX MONEY being given to illegal aliens????
    Where does Der Schtadt get the idea that making things harder for those working day care from their homes is beneficial to We-The-People?
    Did We-The-People ask for MORE governmental interference and control of OUR children???

    It’s all about the destruction of the family.
    They made the economy so bad two income families are now the norm. Leaving Mom with a choice: care for your own kids at home or work to feed them.

    Your day is soon, Commies. Real soon.

  2. The reality is that the United Nations and it’s stakeholders, like OECD, want children in school at a young age because Social Emotional Learning is more effective when introduced early. The United Nations, UNESCO, OECD, World Bank and others are positioning SEL as a tool for the political and economical management of the population, do you gotta brainwash the kids early.

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