An alternative might be a college loan forgiveness program based on years spent as a child care provider following college, or Associate degree completion
Many of the benefits of child care are like those of primary schooling, because child care is early childhood education. These early childhood educational experiences affect children’s readiness for prie way that primary schooling affects children’s readiness for secondary schooling. In both cases many benefits are external to the child and family. The community at large would benefit from the cognitive, language, and behavioral competencies that are associated with higher-quality child care. The argument for equality of opportunity is similar as well.
A high-quality child care system also is needed if welfare reform is to succeed. The recent change in welfare policy, establishing work requirements, means that more parents, particularly single parents, are working, because work is their only potential source of income. Requiring work means that more parents must find child care for their children. Given this increase in demand, the issue of child care quality becomes even more important. Unfortunately, as described in earlier sections, much of the child care in the United States is not of high quality. Over 60 percent of children under the age of 3 are receiving care in which positive caregiving is not characteristic.
A wide variety of approaches might be used to improve child care. Figure 7 provides a path model that attempts to identify the various links between interventions and quality, taking into account parents’ resources.
Only 10 percent are in care settings that are described as excellent
Most of the interventions would be included in the elements of the left column. These include the provision of information, licensing requirements, placement activities, subsidies to compensate child care workers, training programs for providers, tuition subsidies for students who enroll in early childhood education, increased tax credits to cover the cost of care for lower- to middle-income families, incentive payments to individual teachers and assistants who remain in the same center for a minimum of 3–4 years, and even direct provision of care. In the longer run, we need research to help better identify those factors that best improve the quality of child care. In essence, we need better understanding of the production of high-quality care, which may differ for children of different backgrounds.
The minimum roles for the public sector are as providers of information on available slots, hours of operation, structural quality features, costs of care and education, and training of personnel. The government might also establish a certification program to certify providers who met certain requirements. Minimum standards need to be strengthened in many states. Incentives might be offered to providers who meet certain requirements. Other government activities to increase the availability of high-quality care include operation of training programs and covering the cost of instructors and facilities for these programs. Information on the successful completion of such programs could be disseminated by the public sector as part of its information activities.
A more ambitious role designed to increase the pool of well-qualified individuals who enter (and remain) in the field of early childhood education would be some form of tuition subsidy for those willing to major in this field. There is a long tradition of such programs when shortages are feared; examples include nursing education and medical school. Another approach to increasing the pool of qualified providers is to raise salaries. This seems especially important given the relatively low salaries in child care compared to other occupations (see Figure 1 and the discussion of the figure above). Such increases might result from increased information to parents, tax credits to parents, and the expansion of subsidy programs or direct payment to providers by the public sector. An in might reward the stability of providers by paying a bonus after some specified period of years.