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Parissa Sedghi / March 5, 2020

Let Parents Make Childcare Decisions, Not the Nanny State

March is International Women’s Month, and the 2020 Democrat debate stage is proposing a host of nanny-state ideas for, well, nannies and childcare.

March is International Women’s Month, and the 2020 Democrat debate stage is proposing a host of nanny-state ideas for, well, nannies and childcare.

Democrat socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and far-left progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren are both calling for universal childcare and pre-K, while “moderate” Democrat Joe Biden has voiced support for universal pre-K, along with manipulating the tax code to incentivize parents to put their children in daycare outside the home.

These policies are bad for families because they take options away from parents, who know their children best.

What works for one child may not work for another. This fact of parenthood applies to formula brands, classroom learning styles, and everything in between. While some children will thrive in daycare and enjoy time spent with peers, others may need a little extra time at home with a parent or nanny.

There is no right or wrong choice — only the decision that works best for the individual needs of the child. So why does the government incentivize one style of childcare over another?

States currently receive federal subsidies for daycare and preschool programs at the expense of a majority of parents who choose to keep their children home. While 60% of children under the age of five are in childcare, nearly half of that childcare is provided by relatives. Less than a quarter of families with children under the age of five use institutional daycare.

Many low-income families make tremendous financial and personal sacrifices to make sure a parent or family member is able to stay home and care for the child. The growing number of dual-income households in the U.S. makes quality daycare a necessary service, but it’s not always wanted.

In fact, some polls conclude only 6% of parents with children under the age of five believe daycare is the ideal scenario for their families. In other words, if these parents could afford another option, they would take it.

Childcare is one of the largest household expenses in America today, and government handouts are a primary reason childcare is so expensive in the first place. Federal subsidies are meant to help families mitigate the costs of daycare and preschool, but much like higher-education subsidies, those savings are never passed on to the end consumer.

Daycare facilities raise the cost of services each year, just like colleges do with tuition, knowing the government will make up for the difference. They are notorious for making billing schedules inflexible and often require parents to pay for weeks the child didn’t even attend the program.

If the government really wants to help parents who need and want quality daycare, they should back off and allow market forces to find the true cost of childcare based on supply and demand. Without government subsidies artificially inflating the price of childcare, families will be amazed at what kinds of options they can afford to choose from.

We can also empower parents by letting them keep more of their hard-earned money. The Trump administration has already begun lowering the tax and regulatory burden on individuals and small businesses, allowing working households to keep more of their money to spend as they see fit, which includes their childcare budget.

Parents know their children better than anyone else. Choosing the right childcare is one of the most important decisions a parent can make — but it’s also a marketplace like any other good or service. By eliminating government interference and increasing market competition, we can lower the price of childcare for parents of all incomes without sacrificing quality.

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