A-List Blog: Mean n’ stingy anti-tax nuts II | VailDaily.com

A-List Blog: Mean n’ stingy anti-tax nuts II

Alex Miller

Some folks were asking for some facts regarding my last blog entry. Before I get to those, I’d like to just address the person who huffed that educating children is “not my problem.” Fact is, it already is your “problem,” since taxpayer dollars fund K-12 education as well as parts of public colleges and universities, not to mention other programs like Head Start. It’s also your problem when taxpayer money has to be used to build more prisons to house people who grew up without decent early childhood care. You can say it’s all a myth, but as the studies documented below show, there’s some long-term research correlating early childhood education with later deviant behavior.

Another person stated that there is “no benefit” to the proposed “babysitting tax,” which is clearly untrue. Helping families helps communities, so unless we don’t care about our community, we might want to look at ways to improve things for our middle class. For those who argue that others were able to make it work, I would note that the cost of housing has risen tremendously, both in real dollars and as a percentage of income.

Bonnie Osborne with the Summit County Housing Authority, quoted in Wednesday’s Summit Daily News, put it this way:

“In 1990, a house cost four times the average salary. In 2005, a house cost 10 times the average salary in Summit County.” With that ratio, she said, home ownership remains a distant dream for many local residents.

These are similar factors to what’s going on in Eagle County. If we do nothing to help our middle class with home ownership and the other costs of living, the entire county will start to resemble the Vails and Aspens of the world – enclaves of aging, childless locals and second-home owners served by non-resident workers who don’t give a damn about the place. Is that the kind of community we want?

To the people who keep claiming that local parents want this tax to pass so they can buy “$2,000 mountain bikes,” I can only shake my head and wonder what kind of delusional thought this represents. I don’t know who these mythical spendthrifts are, but parents struggling to pay $800/month for childcare are certainly in no position to be buying luxuries, and they’re lucky if they can put food on the table.

Anyway, for those willing to look beyond the name-calling I’m being accused of, here are some data to consider:

The National Institute for Early Education research (NIEER) estimates the average benefits from a universally accessible program at ages 3 and 4 to be at least $25,000 per child, substantially more than the costs.

NIEER (http://nieer.org/) derived benefit estimates by using the following data:

– The Chicago Child Parent Center study produced a present value (using a 3 percent real discount rate) of $48,000 in benefits per child from a half-day public school preschool (an average of 1.5 years attendance) for low-income children.

(For more on the study, go to http://www.waisman.wisc.edu:8000/cls/).

The study found at age 20, participants were more likely to have finished high school than children who weren’t in the program. They were also less likely to have been held back in school, less likely to have needed remedial help, and less likely to have been arrested. It’s estimated for every dollar invested, the return is $7, based on the reduced costs of remedial education and justice system expenditures, and in the increased earnings and projected tax revenues for participants.

– The Perry Preschool program produced a present value (using a 3 percent discount rate) of $108,000 per child from a half-day public preschool program (most attended two years, beginning at age three) for very low-income children. (Our best estimate is that the benefits are larger from two years of preschool than one, but not twice as large.)

The study found at age 27, program participants had higher monthly earnings and completed a higher level of schooling than children who didn’t take part. There were also fewer arrests among participants and a lower percentage received social services over the past 10 years. It’s estimated the program also returned $7 for every dollar invested.

– Both these studies only look at low-income children, so estimates must be made concerning benefits for other children. It is reasonable to assume middle to high-income children will also receive benefits, based on the preventable problems these children encounter. For example, 9 percent of children in families with incomes in the top 20 percent are held back in school, compared with 18 percent in the lowest 20 percent. So NIEER conservatively applied the lower benefit figure of $48,000 from the Chicago Child Parent Study to the poorest 20 percent of the population, while assuming benefits for the middle 60 percent of the population would be half as large, and benefits for the top 20 percent of income level would be only 10 percent of those for poor children. This yields an average benefit estimate across all children of $25,000 per child.

– Both of the studies cited above provide somewhat incomplete estimates of the value of benefits. For example, increased educational attainment is likely to improve long-term health outcomes, personal financial decisions, and the economic prospects of the next generation. None of these benefits were estimated in the two studies. Also, since both were studies of half-day preschool programs, neither provides an estimate for the value of increased parental earnings likely to result from the child care provided by school-day and full-day programs.

Vail, Colorado

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