When it comes to early childhood education, Oklahoma is a national leader. No, I'm not talking about our state's well-known efforts to put 4-year-olds (and now 3-year-olds) in preschool day care. I'm talking about our efforts to empower the most important early childhood educator — mom.
On March 24, The Associated Press reported on "what could be a trendsetting state tax break for families” — giving Oklahoma's stay-at-home moms a credit on the family income-tax bill. "At this point, we're not aware of other states with laws like this one,” said a spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Though the $50 tax credit is tiny, at least it's a start. Bryce Christensen, author of "Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America,” said Oklahoma policy-makers "deserve high praise” for this trailblazing tax break. "Researchers have now amassed a mountain of evidence showing that young children are far better off if cared for by an at-home parent rather than the employees of a day care center,” Christensen said. "So wise policy-makers will help — not penalize — families who make sacrifices to keep one parent at home.” In 2008, policy-makers should help these families even more. In a pro-day care column on March 23, Gov. Brad Henry made a rather startling admission. Before saying that day care is a necessity for many parents in today's society, he paid the perfunctory lip service to at-home parents, but laid it on surprisingly thick: "Obviously,” he said, "it's always best when children can stay home with a parent …” Obviously? Always? Well, if the governor really means that, here's a way public policy can help make it happen.
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