Friday, September 5, 2014

Family Values

Let's begin with a little time travel this morning. When I was little, school started after Labor Day. Everyone knew that is how you did it. I suspect that Comptroller Franchot's view of Summer Vacation is deeply rooted in this memory.

But that memory shouldn't exist in a vacuum. When I was little we walked home for lunch and Mother was there to make it for us. I didn't know anyone whose mother worked outside the home. When I was little all the children in my school were white because all the children in my neighborhood were white. When I was little we all walked to school on our own without any adult supervision from kindergarten onwards. (I even walked to nursery school as a four year old with another classmate--three or four blocks away.)

The point is, our world is not as it was, and perhaps we wouldn't even want it to be. I'll leave that debate for another day. But making the assumption that adding another week to summer vacation would necessarily add more trips to Ocean City and more quality family time is one made out of nostalgia. I know that Mr. Franchot is framing it as good business, but deep down it is a sentimental one.

I remember the exact moment when I realized that my life as a parent would be nothing like the one I remembered from my childhood. It was a sickening feeling that I was always going to be struggling to make enough money to pay somebody else to raise my child. Summer is when that reality stings the most for working parents.

If both parents work outside the home, they must find childcare for all those weeks. If families are struggling financially, they are often faced the prospect that children will not be receiving breakfast and lunch at school. This is the reality for many families in Maryland. For how many of these folks is an extended Ocean City vacation even a possibility?

I don't usually say this, but I'd like to see some numbers. How many families have the financial wherewithal to have a parent stay home in the summer? Or, how many have the financial wherewithal to pay for enriching childcare programs if both parents work outside the home? How many have zero food insecurity? How many are likely to make that extra trip to Ocean City?

I have seen people roll their eyes and say, "Well you know those people look at school simply as childcare." I want to push back against that attitude. I think everyone knows what school is for. But our economy often requires both parents to work outside the home just to survive.

You have kids? They need to be cared for. That's a given, not a crime.

It is perfectly fine to look at summer through the lens of nostalgia. It isn't good government or good business to make decisions that way.

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