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Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst

Karen Schulman is a Senior Policy Analyst in NWLC's Family Economic Security division. She researches and writes about child care and early education policies. She received her bachelor's degree from Williams College and her master's degree in Public Policy from Duke University. Prior to joining NWLC, she worked at the Children's Defense Fund. She enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews and is glad they will grow up thinking there is nothing unusual about a woman being Speaker of the House or running for President.

My Take

A Pivotal Moment for Child Care Assistance

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: October 23, 2013 at 01:30 pm

Families in 27 states were better off under one or more key child care assistance policies—having greater access to help paying for child care or receiving more generous help—in 2013 than in 2012, according to the National Women’s Law Center’s new report, Pivot Point: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2013. Families in 24 states were worse off under one or more policies. The trend during the past year was more positive than in the previous two years, when the situation for families worsened in more states than it improved. Yet, far too many families still lack the help they need to afford good-quality, reliable child care.

Many families with incomes too low to afford child care on their own do not qualify for child care assistance because of states’ restrictive income criteria. A family with an income above 150 percent of poverty ($29,295 a year for a family of three) could not qualify for assistance in 14 states. A family with an income above 200 percent of poverty ($39,060 a year for a family of three) could not qualify for assistance in 38 states. Approximately half of the states reduced their income limits or kept their income limits the same as a dollar amount, without any adjustment for inflation, between 2012 and 2013.

Child Care in 2013: A Pivot Point

Even if families are eligible for assistance, they will not necessarily receive it. Instead, they may be placed on a long waiting list.


Giving Early Education the Attention It Deserves

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: June 05, 2013 at 04:20 pm

At a recent forum held by the Center for American Progress, New York Times columnist Gail Collins said, “If there was going to be a cause that would hook the general needs of society with the most pressing needs of women with something that virtually everyone in the universe agrees with….it would be early childhood education.” Collins noted that early education addresses numerous challenges, from income inequality to parents’ need for child care while they work. Yet she also said that early education isn’t getting the attention it deserves.


Mothers' Contribution to Family Income Is Essential

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 03:55 pm

Women are the sole or primary earners in two-fifths (40 percent) of households with children under age 18, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. This group includes 5.1 million married mothers who earn more than their husbands and 8.6 million single mothers. Women out-earned their husbands in nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of married-couple families with children in 2011, an increase from just 4 percent in 1960.

With mothers' widespread participation in the workforce, and the essential contribution they make to their families' income, child care is more important than ever. Parents need reliable, high-quality child care so they can get and keep a job and work productively knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment. 

Yet child care is hard to find and difficult to afford for families across the country. The average cost of full-time child care [PDF] ranges from about $3,900 to nearly $15,000 a year, depending on where a family lives and the type of care.


Will Congress Pay as Much Attention to Children as Airplanes?

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: May 03, 2013 at 03:52 pm

Congress recently acted with uncharacteristic speed to undo the cuts to air traffic controllers implemented as part of the “sequester” (the across-the-board federal budget cuts), before flying home to their districts for a weeklong break. While making sure that the cuts did not cause them delays at the airport, they ignored the cuts that are affecting vulnerable women and children across the country. These include cuts to a range of crucial supports for families such as child care assistance and Head Start.

The National’s Women’s Law Center’s new fact sheet describes the importance of child care assistance in helping parents afford the care they need to work and support their families, and ensure their children are in safe, reliable care that fosters their learning and growth. Congress should be investing more in child care assistance, not chipping away at the help there is through arbitrary budget cuts.


Stalled Progress on State Preschool

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: April 30, 2013 at 09:58 am

Yesterday, the National Institute for Early Education Research released the latest version of its annual report, The State of Preschool 2012, and it contained very discouraging news. Between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, total state prekindergarten funding fell by $548 million and spending per child dropped by $442 (after adjusting for inflation). Enrollment in state prekindergarten had virtually stalled; as in the previous year, just 28 percent of four-year-olds and 4 percent of three-year-olds were served in state prekindergarten programs in 2011-2012. Only five states (Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Rhode Island) had prekindergarten programs that met all ten of NIEER’s quality standards benchmarks. Ten states—Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—had no prekindergarten program in 2011-2012 (although just this month, Mississippi approved legislation establishing a prekindergarten program).

Given the importance of prekindergarten in giving children a strong start, clearly more needs to be done to ensure that adequate resources are provided to support prekindergarten, that strong standards are in place to provide children with high-quality learning experiences, and that prekindergarten is widely accessible to children who need it—particularly low- and moderate-income children.