Public Policy Forum Blog

Defense Department cares for children best, Wisconsin is 8th

The National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) has released new state rankings on child care standards and oversight. The report, "We Can Do Better: NACCRRA’s Ranking of State Child Care Center Standards and Oversight," which looked at all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), found that “the DoD child care system stands alone as a model for the states” and is the only system to be ranked in the top 10 for both standards and oversight.

Wisconsin ranks 8th for standards, scoring 62 out of a possible 100, for things such as student-teacher ratios, teacher certification and training, and teacher background checks. Wisconsin does not satisfy the industry recommended standards for child care center directors' credentials because our state does not require center directors to possess a post-high school degree.

Unfortunately, on the oversight rankings, Wisconsin plummets. Our state ranks 47th, scoring 11 out of a possible 50, mainly because the state does not visit licensed child care centers frequently enough, the state licensing staff is not required to have any degree higher than an associate's degree, and parents cannot access licensing reports or complaints online. What does this mean? According to NACCRRA:

It is not enough to be moving in the right direction with strong child care standards if a state’s oversight system doesn’t measure up. Without adequate oversight, there is no way to evaluate whether state standards are actually being met.

Thus, we have an accountability problem. For a government watchdog group like the Forum, this is an issue...why are we spending taxpayer money to license these child care providers in the first place if we don't follow up and ensure they continue to meet the requirements?

(Note, too, that not only are taxpayers on the hook when licensing standards aren't enforced, parents, who pay a pretty sum, are as well. The report finds the average annual cost of child care in Wisconsin is $11,855 for infants and $6,959 for preschoolers.)

Anneliese Dickman