Should improving access to daycare be a national priority?

I wanted to write a well-thought-out post about this NPR news story from this past weekend, but I have just been so buried at work and at home that I can’t get caught up, let alone find much time to blog. However, I urge you to go read the article and ponder it:

U.S. Once Had Universal Child Care, But Rebuilding It Won’t Be Easy

NPR explains:

Stumping in Kansas after his State of the Union, the president said that for most parents working today, child care is more than a “side issue,” and that improving access “is a national economic priority for all of us.”

In urging greatly expanded subsidies during his Tuesday address, the president referenced a national child care program that was in place during World War II, when his grandmother and other American women were needed in the nation’s factories.

But to my mind, this was the money quote in the article:

“The problem is that the quality rendered in the U.S child care market is low to mediocre, on average,” he [Arizona State University’s Chris Herbst, an associate professor in the school of public affairs] says — in fact, his research finds that children in federally subsidized day care don’t fare well on cognitive and behavioral tests.

So, is the president saying we should create more subsidies for something that seems to be bad for children? There’s more to it than that, of course – kids who are currently in federally subsidized day care tend to come from rough situations, so it’s not comparable to a household comprised of two-income college-educated married parents, and it’s also not clear that they’d fare any better on those cognitive tests if they weren’t in day care.

But honest to goodness, doesn’t looking at this picture from the story depress you?

Detroit, 1942 – Welcome to your Day Orphanage, kiddies!