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The Presidential Politics of Child Care : Bill Ewing on Bush and Dukakis Proposals

September 11, 1988|DAVID DeVOSS

"I'M VERY OPTIMISTIC," Bill Ewing says. "Child care for the first time has become a national concern of both political parties. Now that it's a bipartisan issue, it will be easier to get problems out in the open for discussion."

The Republicans and the Democrats have made child care a hot topic in the 1988 presidential campaign. Vice President George Bush has proposed a $2.2-billion program that would provide low-income families with tax credits worth as much as $1,000 for each child under 4 years old. The money could be used for private day care, or parents could keep the cash if that would make it easier for one of them to stay home to care for their children. Democrat Michael S. Dukakis favors the Act for Better Childcare Services (ABC) presently in Congress. This $2.5-billion plan would provide subsidized child care at registered family day-care providers and licensed day-care centers for children of families earning up to their state's median income ($33,200 in 1986 in California). We asked Bill Ewing to evaluate the two proposals.

THE DUKAKIS PLAN

"In general, I favor the ABC approach. It tries to help poor and unemployed parents. If it passed, I could provide space immediately to 1,000 kids on my waiting list.

"Some people object to the fact the bill establishes national standards (by using only licensed centers), but I think we need minimum standards. What we don't need, and this is the main defect with ABC, is a federal child-care bureaucracy. The best way to administer the ABC funds is through local governments and school districts."

THE BUSH PLAN

"Tax credits mean less tax revenue is collected by the federal government. If these tax credits were not given, there would be more money available for subsidized child care.

"With the Bush plan you get $1,000 even if you stay home, but child-care money should be spent on kids whose parents can't afford to stay home.

"Republicans have this attitude, a belief that private enterprise can always do things cheaper. In many cases it can, but what do you get for your money? Is it quality child care? In Pomona, we offer children the services of two nurses, a psychologist, a 1-to-8 ratio in our preschool program and instructors with child-care certificates. Most private programs have a 1-to-12 ratio and instructors with lesser qualifications. Ninety-five percent of my budget goes for staff salaries and benefits; in private day care, which exists only to make a profit, salaries average 60%."

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