Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NY Times Editorial: Child Care Cuts "Real, Unnecessary Crisis for Families"

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Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, made a strong argument for good early childhood care. In a speech in New York City, he argued that the value can be especially high for disadvantaged children with a strong payoff for the economy. These programs can increase high school graduation rates, and graduates earn more, pay more taxes, and rely less on state-provided health care.

We hope Mayor Michael Bloomberg was listening. At present, the city subsidizes child care for 98,000 children. His new budget would end that support for 16,500 of them in September, for a savings of $95 million in the city’s $65.6 billion budget.

Families receiving public assistance or welfare will not be affected. Those losing the subsidies are deemed working poor — with an income of less than 200 percent of the poverty level or $36,620 for a family of three. They pay from $5 to $100 a week for city-sponsored child care. Few will be able to pay the full cost on their own, and, without a safe and educational place for their children, many won’t be able to keep working. Their only option will be welfare.

The Independent Budget Office of New York City has suggested several better ways to save or raise money. Cutting transportation for private school students would save $37 million a year. A 6 cent tax on every plastic bag provided at stores would raise $94 million, almost exactly what is needed to maintain current child care subsidies. Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council talk about budgeting for the future. Cutting child care is not the way to do it.