July 31, 2014 – This is the second in a series of blogs about opportunities to improve the quality of Michigan’s child care system through tax credits. This week, I’m going to blog more in-depth about Louisiana’s child care tax credits for child care providers and what a similar model could do for Michigan.
In Louisiana, for-profit and non-profit child care centers who serve children in the foster care system or children who participate in the child care subsidy program are eligible for a refundable tax credit. The credit is based on the average monthly number of children served and the quality rating of the child care center and ranges from $750 per eligible child for a 2-star rated program to $1,500 per child for a 5-star rated program.
Here in Michigan, our Quality Rating and Improvement System known as Great Start to Quality has two levels – the five-star rating for licensed programs and the three-tier rating for unlicensed family, friend and neighbor care. Michigan could structure its child care credits similar to the Louisiana model for licensed programs. And, to ensure that families can maintain choice in their child care provider, we could also provide a tax credit for families who choose family, friend, or neighbor care at the second or third tier. This type of tax credit would incentivize child care providers to increase the quality of their care by allowing providers to target some of the investment from this refundable tax credit towards ongoing quality improvement needs, which we know to be expensive. Quality improvements costs go towards things like employing credentialed staff, ongoing professional development, maintaining optimal teacher-to-child ratios, etc. – costs that are typically ongoing. And, this tax credit would incentivize providers to move up the quality rating scale so that they can receive larger credits.
Michigan should also consider aligning the eligibility requirement for this tax credit with our early childhood system already in place – specifically, with eligibility for Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program. This way, we can bolster our state’s significant investment in high quality preschool by increasing the quality of other settings that serve those children and others. Michigan legislators have already identified that children who have factors that place them at-risk – children living in families with low- and moderately low-income, children in foster care, children who are homeless, and children in special education – benefit the most from access to high quality early care and education. Similarly, a tax credit should go to providers who serve those same populations from birth all the way through age 12. Aligning the tax credit eligibility with GSRP would incentivize the highest quality child care programs to serve Michigan’s most challenged families to ensure the best possible outcomes for kids.
A note about school-aged care. School-aged child care (i.e. before- and after-school and summer care) currently isn’t included in Great Start to Quality, but efforts to infuse those programs into the system are underway. Any child care tax credit system must include those programs so that school-aged children could also benefit from high quality child care settings that keep them academically on-track and engaged in their education.
If high quality child care is something you, your family or your neighbors struggle to afford, please consider talking to candidates running for public office about this issue.
Learn more about opportunities through child care tax credits in our Issues for Michigan’s Children publication.