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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

Turning the Corner on Child Care Assistance — But Still A Long Way to Go

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: October 22, 2014 at 03:33 pm

Families in thirty-three states were better off—having greater access to child care assistance to help pay for care and/or receiving greater benefits from assistance—in February 2014 than in February 2013 under one or more key child care assistance policies, according to a new report by the National Women’s Law Center. The report, Turning the Corner: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2014, also found that families in thirteen states were worse off under one or more of these policies in February 2014 than in February 2013.

This year is the second year in a row in which the situation for families improved in more states than it worsened. And it represents a turnaround from the previous two years, when the situation worsened for families in more states than it improved. However, the improvements states made between 2013 and 2014 were generally modest and families still lack the help they need to afford reliable, good-quality care.

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Even Presidents' Children Need Child Care

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 03:29 pm

Parents across America think and talk about child care every day. It isn’t every day, though, that the President, Vice President, First Lady, and former Speaker of the House all talk about child care—but that’s exactly what they all did at yesterday’s White House Summit on Working Families. They shared their own past experiences struggling to work while ensuring their children were well cared for. Michelle Obama spoke about the time years ago (before entering the White House) when her carefully constructed balance between work and family fell apart when her trusted child care provider left to find a better-paying job. Nancy Pelosi reminisced about her experiences raising five young children born six years apart. The speakers went on to emphasize the need to help other parents—especially those dealing with much more challenging circumstances than their own—find and afford high-quality child care.

At the Summit, a broad range of policy makers, business leaders, workers, and advocates—including National Women’s Law Center Co-President Nancy Duff Campbell, who spoke on a panel on caregiving—highlighted how high-quality child care and early education benefits all of us. It enables parents to get and keep a job and work with peace of mind that their children are in safe, nurturing settings. It enables children to learn and grow and prepares them for success in school and in life. It gives businesses more loyal, more productive employees, which boosts profits. All of these benefits combine to produce a stronger economy, now and in the future.

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Early Learning: A Key Issue for Working Families

Posted by | Posted on: June 17, 2014 at 11:12 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 11:55 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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