Too many families struggle to pay the staggering costs associated with early child care. Finding an affordable, high-quality child care provider for pre-school-aged children and infants is, for most, a struggle that leaves both parents and young children behind.
A new bill, The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, introduced today by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, aims to change that.
The bill seeks to ensure that every family has access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities by establishing a network of federally supported, locally administered child care options.
In a statement, AFSCME President Lee Saunders expressed his support for the proposal, saying, “It’s already hard enough for working families to make ends meet, let alone afford the extraordinary cost of quality child care. [This] plan provides much-needed relief to millions of hardworking families who are falling behind in an economy that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy.”
AFSCME helped develop the legislation, which would give child care providers and early learning professionals – like those working at Head Start – important roles in a universal child care system.
They would have a say in choosing state-level child care coordinators, who would be required to bargain with labor unions representing child care and early learning workers, and ensure that workplace protections and rights are enforced. Also under the bill, child care and early learning workers would receive wages and benefits that are comparable to those of public school teachers with similar credentials. The measure also calls for the government to invest in worker training and professional development.
Key features of the legislation are, according to its sponsors:
- It’s universal. Every family, regardless of income or employment level, can access high-quality, affordable child care options for their children, from birth to school entry.
- It’s affordable. 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. No family would pay more than 7% of its income for these public child care options.
- It provides high-quality, essential developmental services for children, including a full range of mental, physical, dental and other services designed to promote holistic growth and development.
Other important facets of the proposal are: It would invest in child care workers, providing them essential training and wage parity; it would be administered locally; it would include pre-kindergarten services; and it wouldn’t increase the deficit.