Published June 22, 2019
WASHINGTON — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Vice Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Families and Children Living in Poverty, last Tuesday unveiled the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, a comprehensive and bicameral bill that would provide millions of families with free, high-quality child care and early learning options and ensure that every family in the country can affordably access these services. Joining the legislation as cosponsors are Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), and Stephen Horsford (D-Nev.).
Over the past generation, wages have effectively remained flat while the cost of child care has skyrocketed. In nearly half of all states in America, infant child care costs are higher than the cost of in-state public college tuition. Meanwhile, low-income families spend almost a fifth of their entire income on child care, and only a third of families are able to send their children to child care centers or family child care homes.
This lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care prevents parents from fully participating in the workforce, holding them back from career and educational opportunities and placing a drag on our entire economy. Lack of affordable, high-quality care also means many children in the U.S. start kindergarten without the skills they need to reach their full potential.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
“As the wealthiest country in the world, access to affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right for all families rather than a privilege for only the rich,” said Senator Warren. “Our legislation would guarantee all parents affordable access to safe and nurturing child care and early learning opportunities for their kids.”
“Childcare and early learning should not be a luxury that only people with money have access to, but right now that’s the status quo in this country. I know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet as a parent – I cleaned at my daughters pre-school so she could have early learning opportunities – that’s not who we should be
Rep. Deb Haaland chairs hearing
as a country,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland. “If we’re going to get serious about ending the cycle of poverty in New Mexico and the entire country, we need to invest in universal childcare and early learning. The bill Senator Warren and I are introducing today is a bold and comprehensive proposal to remove barriers so moms and dads can take those extra classes at the university or community college, or work to get that promotion without the burden of childcare on their shoulders while ensuring children have the care they need early in life.”
The legislation would fund a system of locally-run, affordable, and high-quality child care programs inspired by the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Bill of 1971, which was vetoed by President Nixon. The lawmakers’ proposal builds on the successes of both the federal Head Start program and the U.S. Department of Defense military child care program.
The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act:
- Ensures universal access: This legislation provides a mandatory federal investment to establish and support a network of locally-run Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes so that every family, regardless of their income or employment, can access high-quality, affordable child care options for their children from birth to school entry.
- Guarantees affordability: Families below 200% of the federal poverty line (about $51,500 for a family of four) could access these child care options at zero cost. Families with higher incomes would pay a subsidized fee on a sliding scale based on their income, as in the military child care program. No family would pay more than 7% of their income for these public child care options.
- Invests in child care workers: The legislation ensures parity by requiring that wages and benefits for child care workers be comparable to those of similarly-credentialed local public school teachers, and invests in worker training and professional development modeled after the military child care program.
- Provides high-quality, essential developmental services: Centers and Family Child Care Homes will meet high-quality standards based on current U.S. military child care and Head Start program standards. Providers would receive support and time to meet new requirements, which would focus on early learning and social-emotional development. Like Head Start, the program would offer a full range of comprehensive mental and physical health, dental, and other services to children who need them in a safe and nurturing environment that promotes children’s holistic growth and development.
- Includes pre-kindergarten (pre-K) educational services: The network of Centers and Family Child Care Homes would provide pre-K curriculum and educational services for children before they enter kindergarten. This legislation would also incentivize states and cities to expand their investments in early childhood education.