Good day care is hard to find. Elizabeth Warren’s plan might make it harder.
Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. Elizabeth Warren’s solution is a $700 billion federal program.
On Tuesday, Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and presidential candidate, unveiled her Universal Child Care and Early Learning plan to turn high-quality child care into a federal entitlement. The federal government, working with states, localities and nonprofits, would subsidize a network of licensed child-care facilities that meet new federal standards for curricula and care. Families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level would pay nothing for child care. Wealthier families would pay no more than 7 percent of their of annual incomes.
For many American families, however, the biggest challenge is not funding care but finding it. Warren’s proposal wouldn’t fix that problem. Instead, it might create a situation in which parents who already have child care they like wouldn’t be able to keep it.
Warren’s plan would dramatically increase demand for an already-limited number of day-care slots, as out-of-home care suddenly becomes “free” or much less expensive for millions of families. The plan would also be available to parents who stay at home with their children, encouraging families to use day-care services they don’t necessarily need. The result could be 12 million children, almost double the number currently enrolled, heading off to day care.
That’s if their parents can find a place for them. Warren’s plan does not address — and could exacerbate — one of the main reasons child care is so expensive and difficult to come by in the first place: the heavy regulatory burden imposed by states.
Day-care licensing is generally managed at state and local levels, and the requirements can be notoriously onerous. Massachusetts is pursuing new background-check requirements so strict they could affect 30 percent of day-care workers in urban areas. A recently implemented District of Columbia rule requires day-care workers to have college degrees. Some regulation of the field makes sense — parents need to have confidence that their children will be safe — but initiatives such as the one in D.C. seem like regulation for regulation’s sake.