Washington officials who want more power almost never say, “I want more power.” Instead, they typically speak of protecting the powerless and improving the quality of programs. Case in point: the Obama administration’s proposed Child Care and Development Fund block grant regulations, known colloquially as 78 Fed. Reg. 29442.
Parents now have a wide variety of childcare options, some from religious providers and some secular, because many parents make use of tax credits to cut the cost and others use vouchers. That’s important, because when parents use vouchers they can choose programs run by people who believe the same things they do, and ones that include religious activities. But, as the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance is pointing out, the Obama administration’s proposed regulations require states to “use grants and contracts to address shortages in the supply of high quality child care” (78 Fed Reg 29451, also 29458f, 29475f).
What’s wrong with that? Funding via grants or contracts restricts religious activities and religious hiring, according to 45 CFR 98.54(d) and 45 CFR 98.47. The Obama administration apparently presumes that faith-based providers do not provide “high quality child care,” so regulations excluding them are purportedly fine. And what about the idea that the federal government knows what makes up “high quality child care” more than parents or others on the scene? We need lots of faith in Washington to believe that.