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. Read more »
Fact: Child care is incredibly expensive—disproportionately so for low-income families. The average cost of full-time care ranges from $3,900 to $15,000 a year, depending on where the family lives, the type of care, and the age of the child. Low-income families who use paid child care spend over 32 percent of their income on child care every month [PDF] (five times the percentage that families living above 200% of the federal poverty level spend).
Fact: Currently available child care assistance is inadequate to address the real needs of real families—especially low-income families. In 2013, nineteen states had child care assistance waiting lists that ranged from a few months to a few years.
Fact: Families who pay for child care throughout the year are eligible for a federal tax credit to recover a portion of the cost of care—but this credit provides limited benefits to low-income families because it is not refundable.
Fact: The Child CARE Act, just introduced in Congress, would amend the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) and make it more responsive to the needs and realities of low-income families who are currently struggling to cover the cost of child care.
The Child CARE Act, sponsored by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), makes two key changes to the current CDCTC: Read more »
Last night in his State of the Union Address, the President recommitted to ensuring that all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds have access to a high-quality prekindergarten experience. This is an important goal to keep on the front burner. And it is one that is widely shared.
Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans believe that ensuring all children have access to preschool education is an absolute priority this year, according to a new poll [PDF]. These poll results are consistent with four earlier polls showing that an overwhelming majority of the American public agree that better early childhood education is very important as is public funding to provide children with access to these programs. This support held among both parents and non-parents, and both Democrats and Republicans.
High-quality early education is also supported by a growing number of state and local elected officials from both parties. Already this year, New York City Mayor De Blasio and New York Governor Cuomo have offered plans to expand prekindergarten. California's Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is heading a legislative effort to extend preschool to all of the state's four-year-olds. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is championing a new state investment in preschool. Other governors have made the expansion of preschool a focus of their state agendas as well.
Support for preschool is bolstered by research showing that high-quality preschool is one of the key strategies to help close the achievement gap and reduce inequality in our country. Read more »
Congress has finally drafted a budget to cover all federal spending for FY 2014 — an omnibus appropriations bill — and thanks to the growing recognition of the importance of investing in high-quality early care and education, and tireless efforts by advocates, it includes significant increases in funding for early learning, despite a very austere budget context. Read more »
Reimbursement rates paid to child care providers that serve families receiving child care assistance in Wisconsin have been frozen for the past seven years, which has deprived providers of the resources they need to support high-quality care and has limited families’ child care options, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. In 2006, maximum rates were at the federally recommended level, sufficient to cover the price of 75 percent of child care slots, but now rates cover the price of just 23 percent of child care slots. When reimbursement rates are lower than the fee providers charge private-paying parents—as is now the case for over three-quarters of the slots in the Wisconsin—providers may refuse to serve families receiving child care assistance, may ask parents to pay the difference between the reimbursement rate and the provider’s private-pay fee, or may be forced to absorb the lost income themselves.
The failure to update rates has meant significant financial losses for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance. For example, a center’s annual shortfall for each two- or three-year-old receiving child care assistance—the difference between the state’s current reimbursement rate and what the rate would be if set at the federally recommended level based on current market prices—ranges from $500 to $3,450 (depending on the county). Read more »
On Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending an event launching a bipartisan bill that would significantly expand high-quality early learning. The event was a big success. Here are my main take-aways and some of our favorite pictures.
This bill is a great start. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY), is a huge step in efforts to expand access to affordable, high-quality preschool and high-quality early learning programs for infants and toddlers. For more information about the bill, check out our summary. And who doesn’t love a giant yellow sign held by preschool teachers?
Though the government shutdown is over and the threat of default has passed (for now), Congress remains wildly unpopular; many doubt that our elected representatives are as concerned with making the country work for ordinary Americans as they are with scoring political points. It doesn’t help that the latest jobs numbers show an economic recovery that is still painfully slow and leaving large numbers of people behind.
Providing paid family and medical leave through a new fund to which both employees and employers would contribute, modeled after successful state programs in New Jersey and California.
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, raising the minimum cash wage for tipped workers to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and indexing both wages to keep pace with inflation, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
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.
Even if families are eligible for assistance, they will not necessarily receive it. Instead, they may be placed on a long waiting list. Read more »
When President Obama announced his groundbreaking early learning plan, he proposed to fund the expansion of preschool and voluntary home visiting with a tobacco tax increase. Today, with eight other organizations invested in young children and/or public health, we released a report that explains the twofold benefits of this plan. Here are just four of them:
In the first year of the program, nearly 335,000 children from low- and moderate-income families will gain access to high-quality preschool. By the 10th year of the program, two million children will have access to these opportunities. TWO MILLION – somebody will need to order a whole lot of those teeny tiny chairs for all these teeny tiny learners!