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I think the words, “daycare costs have exceeded the cost of college tuition,” have come across my screen several times this year. You know what else it costs more than? The average mortgage! It’s complete insanity. If parents are spending this much money on care for our children, we need to raise the bar a bit and question: where is our money going? Toddlers are not walking away from daycare with a degree that is going to help them earn more money, it’s just costing parents more money that should probably be going into a college fund, but isn’t. This will in turn put our children into debt when they reach college because we blew their college fund on daycare. It’s not worth what we are paying. Here’s why…

Daycare “teachers” are not comparable to college professors.

Since we are going to compare tuition rates, we should compare the “instructors” of these “classes.” Any professor, whether they are adjunct, full-time, or tenured must possess both a graduate degree in their field and success in that field. You cannot just walk off the street and decide to teach a college course without being qualified to do so — But Daycare “teachers” can. I say “teachers” because most of them are not actual teachers. Teachers are educated, trained, certified professionals who are fairly compensated (in NJ anyway). While there are some amazing people out there who are qualified and destined to work with children, and I have been lucky enough to know a few of these people, they often leave the industry for better paying jobs; those wonderful teachers are also not as common as we are told during our initial tour. Daycare “teachers” basically need nothing other than a clean background check and having known a kid before. They are paid minimum wage, possess minimum skills, and are expected to handle multiple children without much training. This is not their fault, many of them would love more hands-on training and the opportunity to excel. But because this is a minimum-wage industry, many of these “teachers” are young, either right out of high school, or going to community college part-time.

Daycare is not school.

I noticed this before I ever had kids that everyone was saying things like, “I have to drop him off at school tomorrow.” I would look at them like they were insane. Your infant goes to school? What? I know a lot of the established places and big name chains like to brand themselves on their “curriculum” and “success rates” of how fast their students learned to read, but remember that piece about unqualified “teachers” in these “classrooms?” How is it “school” if you don’t have teachers? With that said, the biggest disadvantage to babies attending “school” is the lack of outdoor free play. Kids need to be outside getting their energy out, not sitting in “classrooms” with “teachers” making parents think they will somehow benefit from learning to read at three-years-old. This is their only chance to be kids, and by pressuring them with “school,” we are just robbing them of what should be some of the best years of their little lives. It’s depressing to think that we even want our babies to go to “school.” Who decided this was a good idea? Kindergarten isn’t even mandatory and it seems everyone is hyper focused on making sure their kids are the Einstein’s of their Kindergarten class. I’m not impressed.

Now that we know how under qualified daycare providers are, why the high price tag?

This is the part that gets me. Daycare centers are not paying their staff well, not training them or supporting them, or replacing broken toys and furniture, but they can keep adding more kids to the room? So for three year olds in NJ, one teacher can have up to ten children in their care at a time. What if one of those children is having a rough day? What if more than one of them starts hitting or being “active?”

“Active” is what they call kids who rebel against all of their structured activities and just want to play and run free. What happens when the “teachers” can’t handle ten children? Parents blame the kids (yes, the toddlers) instead of the adults who are supposed to be trained, and mostly, the owners of these facilities that don’t train them. How is one untrained person supposed to manage their classroom? It is truly disappointing how little money from “tuition” and “registration” fees for these children are spent making these centers a fun place for kids to be. Most centers charge additional registration fees for the summer “camp” for things like “water play” (which is usually an old sprinkler and some water tables, even at the fancier places).

Sometimes they splurge for a visiting petting zoo, or an occasional performance, but honestly — it’s a cash grab, the entire industry is a cash grab. Especially because their summer help is usually more high school kids or college kids off for the summer, who have no idea what they are doing. And yes, even those Goddard schools are a cash grab with their steep tuition, fees, and inconsistencies throughout their independently owned and operated “schools.”

I’m not saying this as someone who doesn’t need daycare, because I do. I am saying it as someone who is tired of not calling it what it really is — bullshit. Think about this next month when you write your giant “tuition” check. I know I always do.