Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letter to Governor Quinn on childcare funding

The following is a letter one of my students this semester wrote for a class exercise in which students were supposed to write about a social welfare policy issue with an audience of a politician or state worker who was already familiar with an issue. The letter is in response to some recent news about the state budget and cuts to child care subsidies and programs. 

            I am an Illinois resident of 22 years and this is my first letter that I am writing to you. I spent most of my life living on the Southside of Chicago, but I am now attending school in Springfield. I am a junior and a social work major at University of Illinois at Springfield. College has brought out my sense of responsibility to get more involved in government.  
            I am fairly active in politics at the local level. I vote in every election and discuss current political issues with fellow classmates, friends, and family. I recently joined the advocacy group “Organizing for America”. I traditionally vote Democrat and I am tend to agree with a moderate perspective. However; from time to time I do agree with Radicals on some issues therefore I can be classified as an innovative moderate.
            I am writing to let you know I strongly oppose the budget cuts proposed for state support to childcare services, and I am concerned about the negative effects this cut will have. I fully understand the need for the state to have a balanced budget; however, this cut will do more damage than good. Child care is important, and diminishing it creates a butterfly effect. A budget cut to this part of the welfare system will increase dependency on other programs, create more poverty, and thwart parental attempts to become more productive citizens as they rear their children.
            When it comes to childcare assistance I have the perspective of a young parent. Education is a public good and it begins in early childhood. Preventing a problem is better than trying to solve a problem. Adequate childcare is the beginning public support for children becoming productive future citizens.  The children affected by these cuts are more likely to adversely affect the state later. Let me explain. A 100 million dollar cut to child care would affect 63,000 children and their families. Let’s say there are three children per family and that is 21,000 families affected. Many of those families will lose some or all of their income as they end their employment because the cost of daycare takes too high a percentage of their earnings or because their employment hours would force them to neglect their children if those children weren’t in daycare.. Childcare workers will lose jobs too. Those parents and childcare workers will need to collect unemployment benefits, other state welfare support, and they will pay less in taxes.
            Illinois, currently, has an unemployment rate of 9.2% and we spend a gross amount of $245 million per month for unemployment insurance. If you cut childcare you can add 21,000 families and the childcare workers that will lose their jobs. When this happens you can expect programs like SNAP, TANF, and SSI to increase. SNAP alone already serves 1,645,722 people monthly in Illinois. The increases to the other programs will outweigh the $100 million saving by decreasing childcare. The purpose of programs like childcare assistance is to help people become less dependent on the government and by cutting this program you increase peoples dependency on the government.
            As a student at a good university, I want to also make you aware of the scientific research on the benefits of high quality early childhood care. Quality daycare can provide very young children with nurturing and stimulating environments, and such care is associated with many long-term benefits for the children as they grow older. I think it quite reasonable to expect long-term increases in behavioral problems and social problems if so many thousands of children can no longer attend day care. To some degree this may be a transfer of modest current daycare expenses to much higher long-term expenses of the criminal justice system a decade or two later.
            Does the state need to bring back financial stability to Illinois and dig out of the budget hole? Yes, and we can do this by slightly increasing taxes. There are 6.676 million people in the labor force of Illinois. Seven dollars per person would equal a little over the 100 million dollar cut you are proposing to cut from childcare. In the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau the median household income was $46,435 annually and 3,869 monthly. If we lower that because of recession and job loss to $3000 monthly, a tax increase to get an average of $7 per tax-payer would mean taking away about 0.23% of that $3000 per month income in increased taxes. I don’t mind increasing my taxes to pay 0.23% of my income to save childcare assistance and help the state out of debt. When you ask for increases in taxes or a broadening of the sales tax, try to list exactly where the money goes, and show people how little they are contributing, and how useful the programs that these tax dollars support are. Daycare is not wasteful; it is an efficient investment.
            Seven dollars per person is not a huge amount of money. I believe that when you as governor explain the fact that childcare is something that’s very important to help people reach a decent living status, there will really be no objections to a 0.23% increase. Making this cut to childcare has only a superficial short-term financial gain, but long-term human consequences and financial loss. The best way to sustain a long term budget would be to raise the tax by 0.23% and not make cuts to childcare.