Unlicensed Religious Daycares Get Millions in Government Funds Each Year

Some religious daycare facilities avoid government regulation, yet they continue to reap millions of dollars in federal and state subsidies every year.

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Virginia has several of these unlicensed church-run daycares using the principle of church/state separation to game the system. To them, government money is “vital to their mission of providing child care to the poorest populations in the state,” according to the Virginian-Pilot.

An analysis by The Virginian-Pilot found that 275 of almost 1,000 religious day cares received a total of $6.8 million in 2016 through Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program.

All but a few of almost two dozen Hampton Roads religious centers contacted for this story declined to talk about the issue. Kamara Cooper, director of New Hope Church of God in Christ’s day care in Norfolk, said the subsidies help families. Her center received a little more than $103,000 last year and teaches the Christian Abeka curriculum.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me like unregulated, untaxed groups shouldn’t get government funding at all. If taxpayers are paying for them to exist, then they should be subject to oversight, and they shouldn’t be able to discriminate based on religion. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Licensed day cares have to undergo frequent inspections, background checks and staff training, much of which religious day cares can avoid. Centers that take subsidies have to comply with some, but not all, of those rules.

I’m not the only one who sees this type of blatant waste and hypocrisy as a problem. Others, including an organization that represents religious schools, say taking government money “violates the very principle religious organizations use as their rationale when trying to avoid regulations.”

“A simple way to shield from government overreach is to say no to taxpayer dollars,” said Dan Zacharias, head of the Old Dominion Association of Church Schools. He represents many religious schools and child care centers, none of which accepts subsidies.

“It boggles my mind why some religious day cares want to take federal money.”

I couldn’t agree more, but most religious groups don’t seem to see things this way.

This would be a pretty big deal even if it were just in the state of Virginia, but the problem actually extends across the United States. Daycares across the country are allowed to run their facilities with little or no government regulation, despite receiving certain subsidies, according to a 2016 report from Reveal News.

Sixteen states have carved out exceptions for some faith-based day cares. Freedoms vary from state to state, ranging from the minor, such as waiving a registration fee, to the extreme, where religious day cares aren’t licensed and follow virtually no rules.

Six states are particularly hands off: Alabama, Indiana, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia offer religious day cares the most leeway.

This system is clearly not working, because it puts children at risk by exposing them to unlicensed and unregulated caregivers, and it is still costing state and federal governments millions of dollars each year. There’s been a lot of talk about tax reform in the U.S., so this is an opportunity for this administration to show it means business by stopping the free-flow of taxpayer money to potentially dangerous religious daycares. It makes so much sense that we all know there’s no chance it will happen.

Too bad. It’s a simple, but effective, solution: stop giving any money to unlicensed religious groups. If they need the funding to operate, they should play by the same rules as the rest of us.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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