The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published the results of a year-long investigation showing that a state-subsidized child care program is keeping Wisconsin’s poorest children from receiving the education they deserve. The idea behind the 13-year-old program was to encourage low-income parents to get jobs by covering the cost of child care. In effect, it has used millions of taxpayer dollars to keep 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds in day care, instead of in accredited kindergarten programs, where they belong. When the kids arrive in first grade, teachers can pick them out immediately; they don’t even know their full names or how to hold a pencil.
The subsidies are reserved for day care centers that serve low-income families, so it’s only the poor kids in Wisconsin who are stuck with poorly-trained babysitters with no academic requirements rather than kindergarten teachers who will teach them the alphabet and how to count. The centers prey on poor families by offering free rent, vacations or straight cash to parents who enroll their children. Public school systems don’t give incentives. And since kindergarten isn’t mandatory in Wisconsin, the whole operation is perfectly legal.