Roper: The $383 million Vermont child care proposal is not ‘for the kids’

By Rob Roper

Senator Dick Sears (D-Bennington) committed candor during a presentation on how the state might pay for the $383 million (a year) total tax bill associated with a proposal to expand Vermont’s state subsidized child care programs.

“Our goal here is to get a more comfortable workforce,” admitted Sears. “That’s what I’ve heard from my employers. … I’m not going to argue whether [a parent] staying home is better, but if you’re staying home, you’re not in the workforce.”

He’s not going to argue if it’s better for the child to be home with a parent during the first five years because there is no argument. Except in extreme circumstances, it’s better for a child to be raised at home by a parent. What this proposal (it’s not in bill form as of this writing) is all about, despite the slick marketing facades of “Let’s Grow Kids” and “Building Bright Futures,” is corporate welfare at the expense of children’s well-being.

Proponents of early childhood education tout the importance of a child’s brain development over the first five years, which is a true critical period. What those proponents ignore is the fact that what is best for that brain development is the stability and bonding that takes place between parent and child over that period — not being shuffled around and handed off to strange people in unfamiliar places.

What daycare injects into the developing brain is high stress and separation anxiety that creates chemical imbalances with the potential for long term impacts on mental health. As multiple studies show, when children go to daycare there is a stress response that leads to a spike in cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. For girls, the cortisol rise is associated with anxious, vigilant behavior, and for boys it is associated with angry, aggressive behavior. The younger the child and the longer the time spent in care the more dramatic the cortisol spikes tend to be. And this is the goal of the proposed program! Longer days in care for younger kids, including infants.

According to the RAND analysis, Vermont already spends about $125 million a year on state subsidized and regulated pre-k programs. This amount and the programs’ scope has been rising since 2006 when the legislature passed Act 62 and embarked on path to expand access to so-called “high-quality” early education facilities.

While no analysis has been done to determine if Vermont’s “investment” in early care over the past nearly two decades has delivered on its promises, one state with a similar program also begun in the mid-2000s, Tennessee, has done such evaluations – and the results are not good. The most recent study by Vanderbilt University, published in January 2022 found:

Data through sixth grade from state education records showed that the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower state achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children, with the strongest negative effects in sixth grade. A negative effect was also found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services, with null effects on retention.

This tracks with what Vermont is experiencing today with falling test scores over the past decade and increased behavioral issues in our schools. While we don’t know enough at this point (because nobody is bothering to look) if our systematically putting more kids in government-subsidized and regulated child care programs is correlation or causation for the declining k-12 results and increasing mental health issues in our young people, it certainly doesn’t look good. For sure it isn’t helping.

In contrast to Senator Sears, Senator Bobby Starr (D-Orleans) at least tried to look at this issue from the perspective of what is best for kids. “I’m trying to get some numbers to see if the difference between taking care of the children between six months old and four years old [before preschool] is work the amount of money we’re talking about trying to raise,” said Starr. “Or would it be cheaper to pay a family member to stay home and raise their own children?”

Starr’s argument is that finding ways to help more parents stay home to raise their own children is both better for the children and potentially less costly for the taxpayers is undoubtedly correct. However, as a solution it doesn’t create a long-term taxpayer funded voting block of unionized preschool teachers. Nor does it cater to corporate donors who fund campaigns and are more interested in getting mom or dad back on the line making widgets in stead of nurturing a healthy, happy, well-adjusted future citizen. So, Starr’s suggestion was roundly poo-poohed by a circle of condescendingly smirking colleagues.

Pre-k advocates will argue at this point, in today’s economy a parent staying home just isn’t realistic in most cases. To that, I would say neither is today’s economy producing affordable, widely available child care. If we’re going to use government resources to make one of those things happen, let’s do the one that really is, as all the politicians love to say, for the children.

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Image courtesy of Public domain

5 thoughts on “Roper: The $383 million Vermont child care proposal is not ‘for the kids’

  1. The attitude seems to be that the cost of a personal choice should be shared by everyone. In a two income family one of the incomes may be spent on childcare.

    Why wouldn’t a parent in this situation stay at home to care for the children? Being out of the workforce may mean losing seniority, not having necessary skills to re-enter the workforce, reduced social security benefits when retirement age is reached, and loss of 401K earnings if provided by the employer. Then there’s the attitude that the parent doesn’t want to spend all their time with the kids.

  2. Sounds like sears want’s everyone in the workforce paying taxes to the almighty government. Why shouldn’t one person stay home and self teach their children to not be propagandized drones of the state? We would have more THINKING people in the state who’d see thru the commie agenda of the current crop of overlords. History is the vision into mistakes made so you don’t relive them. That’s why it’s not a priority in the NEA indoctrination centers.If you can stay home and deprive sears and his cohorts of their tax money.

  3. This is to allow the NEA to start their thought reform program called Social-Emotional Learning at an earlier age. Their goal is to have children view the world from a political lense of oppression and activism. They are data mining children using SEL, AI and technology to create,
    and govern the new society politically and economically that will work in the new circular economy of the future in service to the United Nations sustainable development goals.

  4. Of course it not “for the kids”. The main driving force behind this is the VTNEA teachers’ union who will add mightily to it’s rolls with all the new “professional babysitters” that they refer to as early childhood education specialists. More money flowing from the beleaguered Vermont taxpayers, funneled through public-sector unions and into the coffers of the democrat party in the form of campaign contributions…that’s the plan. The icing on the cake is being able to place the youngest, most impressionable citizens in the hands of those who will indoctrinate them into the leftist ways of thinking and acting…as they already do in the rest of the public “education” system.

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