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The State of Day Care

In our three-part series, The Patriot Ledger and The Enterprise find that Massachusetts doesn’t make the grade when it comes to the high day care costs borne by families and the lack of inspectors to ensure programs’ safety and effectiveness.

While a leading non-profit recommends one  state inspector per 50 licensed programs, there is only one inspector per 252 programs in Massachusetts. Those in day cares say that licensors provide a valuable service, but wish they were around more. Child advocates certainly agree, saying that Massachusetts' high standards demand more inspectors and public information, not less.

Yet, with all these questions on oversight, Massachusetts families spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to send their children to day care. At $14,700 per year — enough to buy a new car, 105,000 diapers or a year's tuition, fees, board and more at Bridgewater State — the state has the nation's highest average annual day care costs, and it is not far behind for preschool care costs. This places a severe economic burden on families, for whom a day care bill is equivalent to a second mortgage payment.

Gov. Deval Patrick made increasing funding for early education a priority during his campaign, recognizing its importance in children's development. Despite budget increases in recent years, the state is far from Patrick's goal of instituting universal pre-kindergarten programs statewide. This initiative has to compete with a host of other priorities for public dollars, including upgrading the state's computer system and online efforts in disseminating day care related information.