Roper: $383 million childcare proposal not ‘for the kids’

Corporate welfare to keep both parents working

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 childcare 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 childcare 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?”

Find more BTL stuff on Facebook

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 childcare. 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.

Share Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics

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,

Categories: Commentary, Legislation

8 replies »

  1. Good job highlighting the Tennessee study. Most studies of pre-K through grade three social and educational programs dedicated to improving learning and well being for disadvantaged kids show that any positive effects to do last – they “wash out” starting in grade 4 and moving on up. This does not mean that we should give up on trying to boost up these kids. But it does cast doubt upon the efficacy of programming and interventions of the kind (and scope and cost) being promoted by Let’s Grow Kids and the Vermont early childhood education cartel.

  2. Well said.

    One has to wonder if it’s more important to get the indoctrination underway earlier into these transgender and racist ideas? One also has to wonder if the increase in behavioral problems because of the separation from the parent allows the medical system to prescribe more complacency type drugs like antipsychotics at a young age thereby not only making the indoctrination easier but also hooking a child on a drug (s) for the rest of their life. Studies show that in the early 2000s (those children are now of age, voting, and marching to these woke ideas) the use of antipsychotics to young children doubled.

  3. True but problematic on several levels. The cost of housing has escalated, based in part on the assumption that 2 incomes will be available to pay for it. The increase in single parent households, especially the never married, has increased dramatically; if the parent doesn’t work there is only welfare to support them with a whole host of government benefits. We went away from that supposedly during the Clinton presidency.

    So yes, I’d agree that at least in theory, young children do better if raised by a f/t parent. But of course it depends on the parent. Some situations are such that sending a child to daycare is preferable and safer than a life spent at home, plunked in front of the TV with a drunk or drugged mom their only option.

  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…that’s the plan.

  5. It is far better to help the parent to take there kids then sending them to daycare for years.

    • The reason two parents “need” to each hold down a job is to afford the high cost of living in Vermont due to regulations and taxes for an ever-expanding cornucopia of social programs. It’s the children who suffer by being raised by strangers who do not have their best interests in mind.

  6. One parent works and one stays with the children?
    Half the uastle and bustle every morning.
    Far fewer transportation, car costs,
    Child care costs skyrocketing based on every Gov’t mandates.
    Perhaps triple income taxes
    Exhaustions lead to expectations of expensive vacations
    What is the advantage of a stay at home mother raising —
    well adjusted, loved, attentive growing young citizens
    LOW STRESS! Much Love!!
    and nurturing every child.

Leave a Reply