Government replaces parent with “high quality” shoe box

by Rob Roper

There is no more compelling evidence to bolster the warning that government is the problem, not the solution, than in the intersection of Vermont’s childcare and minimum wage policies. The Keystone Cops meets the Three Stooges could not devise a more incompetent mess.

We are told we have a childcare “crisis” in Vermont. It is entirely the result of state policy. Lawmakers have, in their wisdom, dramatically increased the amount of regulations childcare facilities need to comply with in order to exist. This is expensive and time consuming for marginally profitable businesses causing many of them to simply close their doors, leaving fewer options for parents and kids.

Adding fuel to the fire, the state provides taxpayer subsidies only for programs they deem to be “high quality” (ie. more expensive), making it difficult for programs that can’t get subsidies to compete, so they go out of business. The net result of this government meddling in the marketplace is that we now have fewer childcare slots for kids, and the ones that remain are more expensive. Crisis!

Now, here comes the Fight for $15 crowd pushing for a $15 and hour state minimum wage. The Vermont Senate has already passed this and sent the bill to the House. They did this knowing that it would explode the childcare crisis outlined above (along with putting thousands of low income Vermonters out of work, but that’s another story). Of course, if the legislature forcibly raises the wages of childcare workers, the cost for childcare will increase proportionally, making it less affordable. If more parents can’t afford the higher costs, childcare operations lose customers and go out of business.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, there is what’s called a “benefits cliff” in Vermont for low wage earners. As wages rise, income-sensitive benefits fall off. The Joint Fiscal Office did a study showing that a single parent working a full-time, minimum-wage job would lose $765 in annual benefits ($469 of that in childcare subsidies).  With a gain of just $633 in annual income. This is a total net loss of $132.

So, our most vulnerable families will have, as a result of state government policy, less money and fewer subsidies to pay for more expensive, less available childcare services.

But have no fear. This “crisis” of government making can be solved, say the lawmakers who made the mess, with increased spending. Just $9.2 million more to start. According to an article in Seven Days, there is already $9.2 million shortfall in the childcare budget. There is no money available in the budget to cover this. On top of that, in order to eliminate the negative effects of the benefits cliff, the senate included in its minimum wage bill a provision to keep paying benefits to workers as thier as wages rise. A summer study committee determined this would cost taxpayers as much as $12 million. There is no money in the budget to cover this either.

But, even these spending increases are not enough to satisfy the advocates of “high quality” child care. Their estimates for a fully funded, age 0-5 system would come to over $800 million annually. And what exactly is considered “high quality” care that’s worth all this expense?

Seven Days recounts this story from a “high quality” center:

“Wanna see my brand-new box?” the [five-year-old] girl asked Smith [director of the center].

Smith bent down to inspect a Nike shoebox decorated with photos of the girl and her mother and asked about its purpose. 

“It makes me calm down so I don’t get nervous about my mom so I don’t miss her anymore…”

“Teachers,” [Smith] said knowingly, pointing out that an educator with less training might not have found a creative way to relieve the preschooler’s anxiety.

The author of this article presents this serious and good thing for this kid! But this is state policy. We’re going to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to put more children in this heartbreaking position: a “high quality” situation in which her parent, whom she has been traumatically separated from, is replaced by a shoebox.

That, folks, is what government does.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anissa DeLauri February 22, 2018 at 3:33 pm

I have been a childcare provider for 23 years. The fall of the childcare profession started with the passing of UPreK. Many programs including mine have been forced into only taking babies and 2 year olds. Parents feel pressure to place their 3 year olds into a school program because their child “will fall behind”. Over regulation is a huge issue and certainly pushed those that were struggling over the cliff causing them to close or go illegal. One correction for the above article…all registered or licensed programs can receive subsidy. The amount of the subsidy they receive is based on the Stars program. The more Starts a program has the more they receive.


JOhn McClaughry March 6, 2018 at 12:56 pm

She’s absolutely right. EAI vocally opposed UPreK on several grounds, but one was it would snatch away the most of the client base for child care providers. We couldn’t even find ONE active legislative ally who dared to oppose the UPreK steamroller.This is a modern Vermont tragedy.


Karen February 22, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Raising minimum wage will not help us home childcare providers as we set our own rates; for most of us to get $15.00 per hour, that means we have 5 full time children in care. It may help ones that work in a childcare center, however, then it will raise parents rates as those that own the center will raise rates in order to pay employees…dream…the centers will close as they will not be able to do this. They have enough expenses already. I agree with many have closed, yet many have stayed in business, they simply have tendered their state resignations…and guess what??? Despite it is law to be registered or licensed if more than 2 families, the state does nothing to enforce this. Mark my word, many more will do this?? Why not?? They, in most cases, will still provide a good quality childcare for the family, just not have to put up with all the extra that comes from the state. I so disagree with the shoebox comment about the provider maybe not able to come up with great ideas…. that is total b.s. A piece of paper saying you have that degree or proper training does not guarantee a provider is not loving, gives guidance, teaches, and finds ways to help soothe children…if anything, we are the ones that know to give the child an object (softee,blanket,shirt) from home with home& mom/dad scent to soothe a crying child to sleep or to swaddle them, yet the state has taken that option away also. I personally feel the state would be happiest having the children herded into a huge center…oh make those rules, but totally neglect the well being emotional side of our children, never teaching them right from wrong as we cannot say no, leading to the issues we have with the tragedies we are facing today.


Rob February 22, 2018 at 5:01 pm

“I personally feel the state would be happiest having the children herded into a huge center…” Yes. Run run by the public school system and the NEA. That’s the real goal here: to drive the private childcare providers out of business and drive the cost of obtaining childcare so high that the only “solution” is to have the public school system take over birth to 5.


Jerry February 22, 2018 at 9:04 pm



Carol February 24, 2018 at 2:40 pm

‘only “solution” is to have the public school system take over birth to 5.’

But, wait! Isn’t that communism?


William Hays February 24, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Childcare solution, in two parts: #1: the legislature bans the deployment of leg-hold traps for fur-bearing animals. #2: issue donated leg-hold traps to single parents. These traps would have a long-enough chain for the kid to go potty, or reach his/her bed. Free! Bernie would love this!


Mark Shepard February 25, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Perhaps with the exception of hurricane Irene, all of Vermont’s crises have been the result of government enacting stupid ideas. But this is what you get when you have super long legislative sessions that essentially limits serving to unproductive people who are largely incapable of thinking. They just react, react and react. No thinking needed.

So Vermont has a childcare crisis, a housing crisis, a healthcare crisis, … and the solution is to expand the taxation crisis.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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