City-run day care as an economic development essential?

Twice in the last few days- my idea from 1993 for City-run day care as an economic development tool have popped up- once when Christopher Gardner said that the cost of child care was the biggest issue in breaking out of homelessness- and then when I see Dr. Percy Mack, Superintendent of the Dayton Public Schools- crying out for better preschool:

Superintendent urges funding for better preschools
DAYTON — Up to $5 million a year should be committed to improving preschool to get far more children ready to start school by kindergarten, City schools Superintendent Percy Mack said Tuesday.

More than half that amount is available in state and federal grants but the city cannot access it because it lacks an infrastructure for programs that could improve preschool instruction, he told a joint meeting of the school board and City Commission.

Mack said a recent study by the Montgomery County Family and Children First Council showed 80 percent of new kindergarten pupils in the city are not school-ready when they arrive. The countywide figure is 67 percent.

That means they don’t know the most basic things a 5-year-old should know — the alphabet, their names, how to repeat a sentence they’ve been told. The test the city uses to assess readiness has 29 questions; 19 correct are required to pass. Mack said some pupils in the district get no questions right.

“We must make a turnaround,” he said. “If they are behind when they start, they don’t catch up.”

Children are behind, the study showed, because too few child care providers offer academically enriching care.

“Many of our child care providers are not certified,” Mack said. “They are aunts and sisters and friends who are keeping four or five kids who are eating, sleeping and playing all day. There is no academic work or social development going on.”

Parents also don’t always know that it is vital for learning to take place during day care or what makes a quality preschool program.

“If the kids are safe at the end of the day and they can take them home, they think the day care people did their job,” Mack said. “Folks, that’s not enough.”

To combat these problems, Mack said the county needs a system to monitor and promote preschool. Child care centers should get report card ratings based on standards just like schools to help parents make good choices, he said. The county also needs an awareness campaign and a resource center to help parents make good choices. With $420,000 spent over the next 16 months, Mack said the county could receive $2.8 million in annual funding for the program by 2010.

Mayor Rhine McLin said she supports the idea of improved early childhood education but the city is not in a position to provide money.

Here is what I said on my campaign literature way back when:

HOW SUBSIDIZED DAY CARE WILL CREATE TAX REVENUE
Jobs aren’t coming here because our effective tax rate is one of the highest in the state. We don’t offer any thing that makes it more affordable to do business in the City. What we have is a surplus of single parent workers, ready to work if they had great affordable childcare. Besides health care costs, day care is the second toughest obstacle for many employers. We can fix that, and create a win-win situation in Dayton.
The subsidy would be based on a formula of your income level, residency and where you worked. If you live and work in the city and make less than $25,000 a year you would pay less than an hour’s pay per week per child. If you only lived or worked in the city, you would pay twice the above.
High quality, available, subsidized day care will be an incentive for new business to locate here, and for dual wage earner families to return to the city. This means more tax dollars, and more jobs.

Not much has changed since then- our tax rate is still high, we still have a surplus of single parent workers, and we don’t have a compelling point of why it is better to do business in the city.

Anybody out there have a better idea?

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