Free money during a crisis that’s crippling daycare centers seems like a no-brainer, but the state’s lawmakers said no because child care centers, apparently, encourage moms to work. We kid you not.
“I don’t think anybody does a better job than mothers in the home, and any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child, I don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going,” said Rep. Charlie Shephard, a Republican, during the debate. “We are really hurting the family unit in the process.”
Incredibly, Shephard wasn’t the only member making remarkably damaging arguments about daycares and working moms.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt, another Republican, made it clear she feels children ought to be home rather than at a child care center. She discussed overhearing a group of women talking about moms being “forced to remain home” to care for their children, the Spokesman-Review reports. “You mean mothers raising their children? Have we gotten to the point that it is so denigrating and such a hardship for a mother that decides to remain home with their children that we have to disparage that?”
But wait, there’s more!
The legislation was intended to allow the State of Idaho to access a grant approved by President Trump in January for the State Board of Education to “support the development of Idaho’s early childhood care and education system” for children ages 0 to 5. If the bill had passed, the Idaho State Board of Education would have partnered with the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC)—a nonprofit organization that’s only loosely affiliated with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—to ensure objectives were met. This grant, unlike a similar previous grant, would go directly to the State Board of Education, rather than to the IAEYC.
A working mom of two herself, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, another Republican, expressed concern over the money going towards programs that don’t promote conservative values. To begin the session, she asked Rep. Paul Amador, a sponsor of the bill: “Are you aware if this nonprofit has provided any support or if they would encourage or support the teaching of the Pledge of Allegiance?”
Those in favor noted the grant would fund programs for children’s libraries, kindergarten readiness and early literacy, as well as provide funding for homeschooled children and programs that help parents find child care.
“A study was conducted, and essentially they said that 50 percent of Idaho is in an early childhood education desert,” said Amador, a Republican, on why the legislation was so important in Idaho specifically. “So people just don’t have access to child care in all parts of the state.”
And it’s not just parents it impacts—it’s employers too. According to the Spokesman-Review, Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, stated in an email to representatives: “For Idaho employers, the lack of childcare options costs us $248 million in turnover and $166 million in absenteeism ANNUALLY.”
The grant was eventually rejected by a vote of 37-31. Rep. Amador told Working Mother that “the intent of this legislation was never to be an indictment on motherhood. [The bill] was developed to help Idaho families in a variety of situations navigate and deal with early childhood education challenges.”
Regardless of political values, lawmakers ought to face facts: Working moms are in a precarious position. Since last January, 1.4 million moms have been forced out of the workforce due to a lack of child care. Those moms need affordable, high-quality child care, so they can return to their careers. And our economy needs those moms in the workforce for a full recovery.
“We had this tired fight before and it was as shortsighted then as it is now,” said Julie Kashen, a senior fellow and director for women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation. “It may shock some of Idaho’s legislators to learn that mothers who work are also amazing moms, but it’s true. Whether it’s to support their family, pursue their dreams or serve the public, mothers in the workplace are here to stay and holding child care funds hostage because you don’t like it is simply cruel.”