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AFSCME child care provider to Congress: Invest more in early childhood education

By AFSCME Staff ·

Darcey Leone, a child care provider on Long Island, New York, and a member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA/AFSCME Local 1000), has a simple message for Congress – invest more in early childhood education.

Leone joined other child care providers as well as members of the Biden administration on Wednesday at a virtual event held to commemorate Labor Day.

Leone made the case that early childhood education – which involves teaching crucial life skills that prepare a child for proper socialization and emotional self-control – can make a big difference in an individual’s life. And yet, the essential workers who provide such services to our communities can barely make ends meet.

“Child care is essential to our economy and to our country,” Leone said. “Children learn so much in day care because we encourage their creativity and their imaginations. We want them to be ready for kindergarten not just academically but socially as well, we want them to know how to interact with others.”

“But one of the biggest problems with running a family day care is that child care costs are so high and the market rate is so low,” Leone added. “We’re essential workers and this industry is made up mostly of women and people of color. I have a staff of five, and I’m required to pay them $14 an hour. They deserve that and a lot more. But as for me, I make $6 an hour. Day cares are closing in our communities.”

The Biden administration agrees on the importance of early childhood education and the invaluable role that child care providers play in supporting other essential workers and shoring up the economy.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, “You have been on the front lines to care for our children,” said JooYeun Chang, acting assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, addressing Leone and other child care workers who took part in the event. “Your work has been incredible to getting the economy back on track.”

As part of its Build Back Better agenda, the Biden administration has made a commitment to investing in our country’s human infrastructure, including providing further support to child care providers such as Leone.

The American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March of this year, included $39 billion in relief funds for child care providers and families that need help to pay for child care. But the Biden administration and child care providers across the country agree: more needs to be done.

The president’s American Families Plan, which has yet to be approved by Congress, would provide universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children. Over a period of 10 years, it includes $1.8 trillion in investments and tax credits for families and children. To pay for it, the wealthiest Americans and corporations would need to start paying their fair share of taxes.

AFSCME supports Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and his commitment to investing in our country’s human infrastructure.

As AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it after the recent passage of a bipartisan infrastructure package, “AFSCME will also continue working with the White House and Congress on another robust package to invest in our human infrastructure. To empower working families, we must ensure access to quality, affordable child care and home care.”

Wednesday’s event brought together child care providers and teachers who are members of AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Unions play a hugely influential role in giving child care providers a voice on the job. To take but one recent example, child care providers in California signed a historic first contract with the state, ensuring they have a seat at the negotiating table to set wages, benefits, working conditions and more.

Our country owes a huge debt of gratitude to these essential workers, and it is high time that we pay it back.

“It is time for a change,” Chang said, referring to child care workers. “You are the foundation of our children’s future. It is time to put our money where our mouth is. We support you, we are behind you, and we look forward to continue working with you.”

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