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The U.S. Can’t Afford to Economize on Child Care

Bloomberg: “Day care is the most neglected area of U.S. public policy for children. It isn’t only a matter of spending — although the difference between what’s budgeted for babies and toddlers and what goes to educate older kids is stark. In 2008, federal, state and local governments together invested about $300 for every child of 2 or younger on day care, while spending almost $11,000 per 6-year-old to 11-year-old on education and after-school programs, according to an Urban Institute study. For 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds, some of whom are in preschool, the outlay for education and care amounted to about $5,000. Just as important is the way day care has been short-changed on attention. Although some states set a high bar for quality and safety — North Carolina and Delaware, for example, inspect centers regularly and pay more generous government support to better operations — others enforce only limited standards. In South Dakota, a home-care provider can look out for as many as 12 youngsters and meet no standards at all. Twelve states require no CPR training for licensed child-care providers, and 29 demand no instruction in how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. Up to now, the federal government has mainly left regulation to states’ discretion. This is about to change, in what we hope will be the first of several steps — by the Obama administration, Congress and the states — toward better child-care quality and safety.”

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