Last year Republicans killed Representative Erin Healy’s (D-14/Sioux Falls) proposal that the state study—just study—the need for pre-kindergarten education on Speaker Steven Haugaaard’s (R-10/Sioux Falls) premise that preschool is socialism. This year Republicans killed Representative Healy’s new preschool-study proposal, House Bill 1237, on the premise that it helps crass capitalism:
…Concerned Women for America opposed the bill, saying that working parents prefer to leave their children with family or friends instead of schools. Parents are “creative” in figuring out how to stay home with their children, lobbyist Linda Schauer said. Federal programs such as Head Start already provide programs for children, she said.
“Parents of young children should not have free childcare and free preschool dangling before them, enticing both parents to join the workforce rather than to continue to raise their own children,” Schauer said [Lisa Kaczke, “Lawmakers Reject Bill to Study Early Childhood Education Gaps in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2020.02.25].
Well, at least the Concerned Women recognize that capitalist materialist impulses harm family life.
But Linda Schauer needs to check her group’s economic and familial logic. She seems to assume that parents don’t want to spend time with their children, that they would rather see their children warehoused with strangers, and that they would rather spend time in the workplace subject to the arbitrary and unchecked rule of their bosses than be at home where they can exercise near total autonomy. She seems to assume that offering a public service (which, as proponents noted Monday, would improve learning outcomes and decrease social costs like crime and drug addiction) makes the parental impulse disappear and unleashes pure selfish acquisitiveness.
Let’s test Schauer’s assumptions by comparing South Dakota, which does not offer “free” preschool, to Minnesota, which does offer “free” preschool. (Come on, we all know public services aren’t “free”; we agree to pay for them together, as a community.) According to the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Center, in 2018, 77% of Minnesota children under age 6 had all available parents in the workforce. In South Dakota, that percentage was 76%. Iowa funds preschool and has 77% of little kids in all-parents-working households; North Dakota is cheap like us and has 76%. There are at least 39 other states that fund public preschool and have lower percentages of all-parents-working families than South Dakota.
You want parents to stay home to take care of their kids? Most would be glad to, if they could afford to. Instead of portraying working parents who place their children in preschool as morally inferior, the Concerned Women should tell their God-fearing members (wait—who actually belongs to the CWA?) to pay their workers higher wages so they can work fewer hours and spend more time with their kids. Higher wages are capitalism that work for everyone. In the meantime, we can use a little more socialism—i.e., neighbors working together and shouldering burdens that individuals cannot carry as efficiently—to support real family values.