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    The cost and quality of childcare in the United States can place a huge burden on families and the economy. In some states, a year of childcare for one child is often more expensive than a year of college tuition.[1] Issues with quality also arise, as childcare workers are paid very poorly and are not trained properly. These workers often do not have any expertise in child development, which can make a massive difference in the quality of a childcare provider.  While a few states have taken certain actions to improve upon the federal minimum standards, Michigan has done little to solve these issues.

     

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    Why is improving childcare so important to the Michigan economy? Economists argue that through better childcare systems, childhood development is improved, and thus there will be more productive members of society. When a state government invests in childcare and child development systems, the cost of special education, unemployment, and corrections on the state will decrease over time. “Economists have found that high-quality early childhood education offers one of the highest long-term returns of any public investment — more than $7 for every dollar spent.”[2]  It will also improve the status of women in the workforce, as they won’t have to sacrifice their careers to stay at home when childcare cost and quality is too much of a burden. [3] It is clear that a state investment in child development is something that will benefit the state in the long run. As Michigan is starting to see some economic improvement overall, investing in childcare can make an even larger impact on the economy and standard of living.

     

    In Michigan, many parents pay on average close to $10,000 a year for full-time infant care for one child, which is about a fifth of the state medium household income. Like other states, Michigan subsidizes childcare through reimbursements, though these are not necessarily fully utilized. Furthermore, Michigan has the lowest reimbursement rate of all of the states in the Midwest. The number of parents receiving this subsidy has been decreasing over the past ten years “from nearly 65,000 to only 22,000.” [4] Eligibility for this subsidy is also higher in Michigan compared to other states, where the cut off income is a little over half of what the cut of limit is in other states. [5] The state’s decrease in childcare spending and the increase in requirements in this program have made it much more difficult for both parents and childcare providers to meet the criteria and to benefit from this assistance program.

     

    Michigan has made some strides in improving standards for the quality of childcare throughout the state.  For example, in 2012, Michigan spent 4% more than their federally required spending to improve their childcare quality and ratings system called “Great Start to Quality”, an online program established by the Michigan Department of Education to help parents find the best preschool and childcare options available in their area. These programs were not only for infant childcare, but also to provide at-risk toddlers proper childcare and a pre-kindergarten education.[6] Michigan also fully meets certain standards in requiring developmental learning plans, important health and safety practices, and also only licenses staff that have a bachelors degree in early childhood education fields. [7] These quality improvements have made Michigan better than a little less than half of the other states in the United States.[8] Also included in these improvements is the “new tiered reimbursement rate system” Michigan established in 2014.[9] This rate system makes sure that centers that are meeting and exceeding standards receive a higher reimbursement, which can incentivize improved performance from childcare providers.

     

    There is currently a bill proposed in the House to limit the hours a child can be left at a child care center to eleven hours for parents who do not have work requirements that last longer than an eleven hour period. [10] This, in combination with another bill proposed by Representative Robert Kosowski (D, Westland) that would establish paid birth or adoption leave, would be a great improvement on Michigan’s overall childcare system.[11] This would allow parents more time to nurture and bond with their children without fear of losing their job or pay. Paid leave time will also allow parents to be able to afford better childcare for their children once it is time for the parents to return to work and to place their children with a childcare facility.  These two bills are just the beginning of an improved system of leave and childcare that could improve Michigan’s long-term socioeconomic status.

     

    In addition to these bills, Michigan can work harder to meet the standards Child Care Aware deems essential for having a successful childcare system. It is also important to note that while quality standards may be improving, this does not help out lower class families, for as the quality of childcare rises, so does the cost. [12] If the bills pass, some of the cost to parents may be alleviated, but this may not be enough to ensure affordable childcare for all. Michigan should work to reverse this decrease in spending and instead focus on helping subsidize childcare for these families in need. By helping to find a way to lower childcare costs for families, they will no longer need to find help through a cheaper, but unlicensed provider.[13] If Michigan wants to continue its upward trajectory, investment in improved and affordable healthcare is an important step to consider.



    [1] “Child Care Costs More than College. “ CNN. December 4, 2014. http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/04/news/economy/child-care-costs-college/

    [2] “The Importance of Ensuring Adequate Child Care in Planning Practice.” American Planning Association. 2011

    https://www.planning.org/research/family/briefingpapers/pdf/childcare.pdf

    [3] “The Hell of American Day Care.” New Republic. Jonathan Cohn. April 15, 2013 http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112892/hell-american-day-care

    [4] “Failure to Invest in High-Quality Child Care Hurts Children and State’s Economy”. Michigan League for Public Policy. September 22, 2014 http://www.mlpp.org/failure-to-invest-in-high-quality-child-care-hurts-children-and-states-economy

    [5] “We’re All Paying the High Cost of Child Care.” Detroit Free Press. Nancy Kaffer. February 1, 2015. http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/nancy-kaffer/2015/01/31/child-care-costs-day-care-michigan/22623317/

    [6] “Failure to Invest…”

    [7]  “We Can Do Better: Child Care Aware of American’s Rankings of State Child care Center Regulations and Oversight.” Child Care Aware. 2013. http://www.naccrra.org/sites/default/files/default_site_pages/2013/wcdb_2013_final_april_11_0.pdf

    [8] “We Can Do Better…”

    [9]  “Turning the Corner: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2014”. National Women’s Law Center.  2014. http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/nwlc_2014statechildcareassistancereport-final.pdf

    [10] House Bill No. 4023. Rep. Kosowski, January 15, 2015.

    [11] House Bill No. 4024. Rep. Kosowski, January 15, 2015.

    [12] “Failure to Invest…”

    [13] “Failure to Invest…”

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    Jocelyn Cutean serves as Morality and Family policy correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. She is a first-year student at Michigan State, majoring in Theatre and English. Jocelyn has experience working on the executive board of the Waterford Chapter Coalition for Youth. She has also piloted a grant funded city wide public service announcement entitled, "It Just Wasn't Worth It" which exposes the repercussions of driving while intoxicated. Jocelyn enjoys art of all forms, from writing to performance.