The cover story of the December 12 Boston Globe Magazine – “The Day Care Squeeze” – described the difficulty of finding affordable, high-quality early education and care for young children in Massachusetts, which has the most expensive child care in the nation. Two readers whose letters are published in the magazine’s January 9 edition take issue with the article’s acceptance of the quest as a private, family affair rather than a public responsibility to build a system that is both high-quality and affordable.
In one letter, SFC board member Arnold Hiatt, former head of the Stride Rite Corp., wrote: “In the early 1970s, when I was leading Stride Rite, I recognized that our employees needed child care and opened an on-site center. So I read ‘The Day Care Squeeze’ with interest. It eloquently describes a patchwork system dependent on high costs for parents and low wages for early educators. Yet it accepts a mind-set I long ago rejected as inadequate to meet the needs of children, families, and the economy. High-quality early education and care must become the birthright of our children and our future workforce. As Nobel laureate James Heckman recently warned the federal deficit panel, failing to invest in early education puts “our country’s future in peril by producing a deficit in human capital that will take generations to correct.”
In another letter, Dr. Gregory Hagan, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote: “While teaching pediatric residents, I routinely emphasize the research on high-quality early education. There are demonstrated educational, economic, and health benefits for children and society, with a substantial return on investment, in the range of 10 percent to 16 percent. In Massachusetts, 90 percent of children are regularly cared for by someone other than a parent or guardian and 70 percent of preschool-aged children attend a formal program. For too long, the costs have been borne through high fees for parents and low wages for the early childhood workforce. That must change. The Commonwealth and its business community must play a greater role in nurturing the next generation of citizens and workers. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s a smart investment.”