In today's newspaper, I was reading an article called Arme Städte, teure Kitas (Poor cities, expensive day care). Let me (roughly) translate the first few paragraphs for you:
It is extremely unfair for parents: Depending on where they live, they will pay very different amounts for day care spaces and often the prices vary significantly even within a region. In Heilbronn parents don't pay anything, whereas in Tübingen (100km away) a high income family pays up to 3,700 Euros (about CDN$4,921 or US$4,656) per year for two children. While Dusseldorf offers free day care, Duisburg parents pay up to 2,700 Euros (about CDN$3,591 or US$3,397) per year for two children.
The explanation is usually simple: Many local governments need to save. Duisburg is so far in debt that the county government said it had to withdraw day care subsidies.
The article goes on to discuss the fact that rich cities are able to offer free day care to their citizens, whereas poor cities cannot afford to do so. This further exacerbates the gap between rich and poor and puts increased financial pressure on parents in poor areas. This is, of course, a good point and an important one at that. The article explains that "free day care in difficult times is a luxury."
I imagine that most North American parents reading an article like that would see their blood pressure rising and their heads exploding when comparing the prices of the extremely expensive day care that exists in some German cities with what they have to pay. I come from $7 per day day care land (otherwise known as Quebec), which would work out to around $3,500 per year for two children. In Canada, Quebec's day care program is highly coveted by other provinces where people pay much more for day care, so the thought of Quebec's day care program being considered extremely expensive would probably blow their minds.
On the other side, there are the North American critics of social programs who insist that they do not want to see their tax money being spent to pay for day care for other people's children. This came up as an issue when I wrote about the plans to offer full day junior and senior kindergarten in Ontario. I must admit I don't fully understand why people arbitrarily think it is okay for taxpayers to pay for school starting at the age of five, but object to it before then.
What do you think? Should the government be stepping up and subsidizing day care to ensure that everyone who needs or wants a space can afford it? Or is putting young children into care entirely a family's personal financial responsibility?
Note: The Kitas (day care) that I am talking about in the German context are generally for children aged 3 and above. However, there is also a push to increase the availability of spaces for children younger than that too. About 2/3 of 3 year olds go to Kita and about 90% of children attend Kita in their final "pre-school" (i.e. before Grade 1) year.
Photo credit: Michael Panse MdL on flickr