British Researchers: Universal Free Childcare an Abject Failure

A scathing report, highlighted in the UK Daily Mail, details the findings of the Institute of Economic Affairs regarding Britain’s universal free childcare program. The bottom line: researchers have concluded that a government-funded, government-mandated universal daycare and pre-K program has done nothing more than bankrupt the middle class while failing to serve the country’s poor. What’s worse, government involvement has led to excessive regulation that not only drives up programming costs, but limits parental choice when it comes to how they would like to care for and educate their own children. Co-author of the report Len Shackleton, an editorial research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

Government interventions in the childcare sector have resulted in both British families and taxpayers bearing a heavy burden of expensive provision.

Regulation has led to an excessive formalisation of childcare and pre-school, which has not only pushed up costs but paid scant attention to parental preferences.

Many families may not want the structured form of pre-school that the Government requires as standard.

At a time when many families are facing a cost of living crisis, it is important the Government rethinks its involvement in childcare.

Rowing back on unnecessary regulation and focusing public funds on those who need it, rather than subsidising the well-off, would be a good way to start.

The statistics should come as no surprise to concerned Americans following the push for universal pre-K on this side of the pond. In 2013 the Wall Street Journal published an analysis that determined universal pre-K had “negligible educational value,” while being “massively expensive.” Politicians push the idea based on studies showing the “value” of Pre-K in the short-term while ignoring the long-term. The reality is that low-income children who receive the immediate benefit of preschool education still wind up behind the game academically because they lack the necessary support at home to sustain education benefits into the future.

The true intention of citing the studies is to distract from the fact that universal pre-K has nothing to do with education and everything to do with providing glorified daycare services so that parents can go to work. Two-income families would be required in order to pay for universal childcare programming. In other words, it wouldn’t matter if a mother or father believed in or wanted to stay at home with their preschool aged children. Under federally regulated preschool, they wouldn’t have a choice. Both parents would be forced to work full-time just to generate the tax dollars that would pay for the program. Hence, as the British researcher above noted, universal pre-school legislation not only tells mom and dad to get back to work, but takes over parent decision-making as well.

Yet, those in favor of universal Pre-K carefully word accounts to glorify a statistically proven bad idea. Take, for instance, this recent report on British preschool in The Atlantic:

Nothing observed in any of these schools is wildly different from what happens in American preschools every day, yet it is striking to consider that the parents of these children have paid either nothing, or only about half the cost of the program their child is attending.

According to The Atlantic the British government must be a private entity that generates its own income because these taxpaying parents don’t drop a dime on a government-funded program. It just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you read… unless, of course, you have the data to back it up.