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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

Early Learning: A Key Issue for Working Families

Posted by | Posted on: June 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

Parents, teachers, and experts agree—high-quality early childhood education is a must for giving our young children the strong start they need to succeed in school, in work, and in life. And by helping children succeed, we help the country prosper. Early education should be a top priority at the upcoming White House Summit on Working Families not only because it benefits today’s workforce and working families, but because it will benefit our nation’s future workforce and working families.

Numerous studies have revealed that low-income children who attend high-quality preschool have significantly better educational outcomes through high school and college and are more likely to get a job and earn more income later in life than their peers who did not receive the same education early in life. At-risk children who do not attend preschool are more likely to be placed in special education, become a teen parent, drop out of high school, and become involved in crime. The benefits of preschool far exceed the initial costs. Clearly, it is to everyone’s advantage that all children—particularly children from low-income and vulnerable families—have access to high-quality early learning.

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New Study Shows Need to Jumpstart State Preschool Efforts

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: May 13, 2014 at 10:55 am

State funding for preschool increased slightly between the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, but enrollment in state preschool programs dropped and states made almost no progress in addressing the gaps in their preschool quality standards, according to a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). States have long been leaders in supporting preschool, and a number of states and localities continue to make major strides in expanding high-quality early education opportunities. Twenty-three governors (including 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans), as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, mentioned early care and education in their 2014 State of the State addresses, including several governors who proposed significant new investments. Yet, in many states, progress has stalled. The report findings demonstrate the need for federal leadership and investment to spark a renewed state commitment to preschool—the type of leadership and investment offered by the Strong Start for America’s Children Act currently being considered by Congress.

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Low-Wage Jobs, High-Cost Child Care, and Stay-at-Home Moms

The percentage of mothers who stayed at home increased from a low of 23 percent in 1999 to 29 percent in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center [PDF]. This represents a turn-around from the trend in previous decades, when the percentage of mothers who stayed at home steadily declined from 47 percent in 1970.

There are many possible explanations for the recent increase in the number of mothers staying at home—but economic factors clearly play a major part.

Women deciding to enter today’s labor force face daunting prospects—unemployment rates remain well above pre-recession levels and jobs are hard to come by. In fact, Pew reports that the share of women who stay home with their children because they cannot find a job has risen by five percentage points since 2000. And when jobs can be found, they are very low-wage. NWLC analysis shows that over one-third of women’s job gains [PDF] since 2009 have been in the 10 largest low-wage occupations, which typically pay $10.10 or less per hour. 

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Child Care and Head Start Success Stories Show Need for More Investment - Not Cuts

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: April 01, 2014 at 01:06 pm

Congressman Paul Ryan released his budget blueprint today and, although it does not provide detailed proposals on funding for each federal program, his budget would severely reduce overall discretionary funding, a category that encompasses many programs that benefit women and their families.  Meeting Ryan’s budget targets would likely require deep cuts in programs such as child care assistance and Head Start—programs that enable families to make ends meet and to ultimately improve their lives.  The positive impacts of these and other supports  are vividly illustrated by the stories collected in a new booklet by Half in Ten.  Our American Story: Personal Stories on the War on Poverty’s Legacy [PDF] compiles the stories of 30 individuals who have been helped by programs that have given parents the chance to work and obtain education credentials that enable them to gain more stable and better-paying employment, and that have given their children learning opportunities they need to succeed in the future.

In one of these stories, Rebecca of Barnesville, Minnesota describes how she and her family have succeeded thanks to safety net programs:

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President's FY15 Budget Proposal Highlights Early Learning

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: March 05, 2014 at 12:28 pm

There is good news for young children in President Obama’s budget proposal. The President demonstrates his continued commitment to ensuring children have a strong start by proposing significant new investments in early learning. These investments would support more high-quality options for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. The investments would be funded through base discretionary and mandatory funding as well as through a new Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative. This initiative would be supported by savings from changes to mandatory programs and the reduction of a tax break for wealthy individuals, with the additional funding split between defense and domestic programs, including early learning programs. The President’s budget would also fund a major expansion of high-quality preschool programs for four-year-olds through a tobacco tax increase, as proposed in last year’s budget.

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