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Report on Wisconsin’s Early Care Serves as Little More Than a Missed Opportunity

BOULDER, CO (January 31, 2023)—A recent Badger Institute report reviews the current early care and education (ECE) landscape and offers a profile of the childcare system in Wisconsin. Yet despite drawing valuable attention to the policy issues of ECE, the report ultimately fails to support its recommendations.

W. Steven Barnett, Rutgers professor and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, reviewed Off Track: An Assessment of Wisconsin’s Early Care and Learning System for Young Children and found it to be flawed in its methodology and in its central premise.

The Badger report presents data on trends in Wisconsin’s ECE system. It then identifies government regulations—particularly those focused on improving teacher-child interactions—as a problem, concluding that those regulations have limited supply, decreased parental choice in providers, and increased costs. Its recommendations include reducing continuous improvement efforts focused on quality while increasing performance accountability (aka testing burdens), consolidating state agencies, and increasing parental control over use of government childcare subsidies.

Although a case can be made for reducing regulatory burden, Professor Barnett determined that the report’s conclusions and recommendations are not supported by evidence and would in fact increase costs and harm providers, while at the same time placing children and benefits to taxpayers at risk.

Though Barnett states that the report should be commended for continuing to spotlight the need for quality childcare and education, he also explains that the report is weakened by significant methodological flaws and omission of important literature. Professor Barnett thus concludes that the report’s recommendations should be treated with extreme caution, if not avoided altogether.

Find the review, by W. Steven Barnett, at:

Find Off Track: An Assessment of Wisconsin’s Early Care and Learning System for Young Children, written by Angela Rachidi and published by the Badger Institute, at:

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