As we emerge from pandemic restrictions and work toward addressing new challenges, as well as the longstanding issues that have been intensified, it is encouraging to see child care as a central component of these conversations.
With the recent reintroduction of the Child Care for Working Families Act and President Biden’s proposed American Families Plan, there is a spotlight on early care and education. With this significant investment, the system-wide improvements our child care sector desperately needs could be created.
What’s Broken with the Current Child Care System
There are many issues with our current system. The financial burden placed on families can often be simply unworkable for budgets. The average full-time monthly rate for center-based infant care in Johnson County, Kansas is $1,504.83. That’s almost double what most families spend on housing, and a serious problem for young families who are just getting started in their career, and have limited earning potential.
But, the overall cost is not actually the problem. In fact, the sector is significantly underfunded. Most programs operate on extremely thin profit margins — keeping their doors open by often offering poverty level wages and little to no benefits to their hardworking staff.
To learn more about where the money goes, and why quality early childhood programs cost so much, view this interactive child care calculator from the Center for American Progress.
How do the Federal Proposals Aim to Improve Child Care
The Child Care for Working Families Act would:
- Ensure families who earn up to 150% of the state median income (currently 85% of median income in Missouri) have access to child care assistance.
- Cap a family’s child care spending at 7% of their income – with most eligible families paying less than $45 per week..
- Ensure that people who work in child care earn a living wage and are compensated at the same level as elementary school teachers with the same credentials and experience.
- Improve quality in child care programs by providing states with resources to increase quality and develop a means of measuring quality.
The American Families Plan proposes the following investments in young children:
- Provide universal, high quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds.
- Provide direct support to families to ensure that low- and middle-income families spend no more than seven percent of their income on child care
- Provide direct support to workers and families by creating a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program.
- Extend key tax cuts in the American Rescue Plan that benefit lower- and middle-income workers and families.
- President Biden has also proposed $25 billion for a Child Care Growth and Innovation Fund in his American Jobs Plan.
It’s important that as we work to improve the system, we build on what is already in place. We believe that child care is a public good, and that either of these proposals would mark a big step toward realizing the amazing rewards high-quality early care and education offers, and the long awaited support working parents need.
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