By Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA)
If there’s one thing that voters across the country have made very clear, it’s that they want big, bold solutions to the serious challenges facing them and their families. While the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations are cashing the checks from their latest Republican tax cut, middle class Americans and working families are sitting around their kitchen tables wondering when their government will start working for them. We hear their voices. Democrats are stepping up with answers and bold progressive proposals to increase wages and financial security for workers and the middle class, and we want to add another plank to our vision for a better, fairer economy with a proposal to guarantee universal access to high-quality, affordable child care for America’s working families.
The lack of affordable and high-quality child care isn’t just a children’s issue—it impacts many facets of our economy. Parents are struggling to make ends meet because they’re spending so much of what they make on care. Some parents have told us they’re not as productive at work because they’re worrying if their child is getting good, safe care. Child care workers, many of whom are low-income women of color, on average make $22,310 a year and often leave early childhood education for better paying jobs. This is an issue that will affect our economy for decades to come. Generations of children are losing out on critical years of early learning and development, and this lost opportunity will hinder their ability to contribute to our communities in the future. Businesses are losing out on talented workers, undermining local economies.
Two years ago, we decided to work together on a solution that would address all of these issues. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy to solve. But we started by listening to the stories of parents, families, and child care workers, and meeting with advocates for early childhood education, women and family issues, disability rights, labor unions, and others to figure out how we could be most impactful. What we came up with is the Child Care for Working Families Act. Here’s what it would do.
First, it ensures parents have quality, affordable care when they need it. Families living paycheck to paycheck and those working in the middle class won’t pay more than seven percent of their income on child care, and those who make less, pay less. In fact, many parents won’t pay anything at all. Importantly, our bill is a targeted investment in children and families who need it the most, and it doesn’t ask taxpayers to subsidize the children of bankers and CEOs who can pay their own way.
The Child Care for Working Families Act helps create and expand options for child care in the summer and during non-traditional hours, when quality care can be even harder to find. It also ensures that students, toddlers, and infants with disabilities, who struggle even more to find the high-quality care they need, are able to learn and play alongside their friends and neighbors.
Second, it ensures our youngest learners are prepared for kindergarten and beyond by expanding access to quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. This investment will pay for itself for generations to come; studies show that children who have high-quality early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to earn more later in life, and less likely to go to jail.
Finally, our bill invests in providing our child care workforce with the training and education they need to help our children learn and grown when their brains are in the most important stage of development, and be prepared for a successful life. It would also ensure that these tireless and hardworking teachers are paid at least a living wage so they can support themselves and their own families.
The Child Care for Working Families Act would jumpstart our economy. According to one study, this bill would create 770,000 jobs in child care—good-paying American jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. It would also allow an additional 1.6 million parents who were forced to stay home because of a lack of child care to return to work. And of course, it would create generations of young people who are able to reach their full potential.
Our bill is bold and progressive—but it’s also absolutely attainable. It has the support of 33 Senators and counting, over 140 members of the House, and more than 100 child, parent, and worker advocacy groups. There are few issues that unify Democrats, advocates, and families like this one – and that is one reason why every one of our colleagues currently running for president has joined our bill as cosponsors. We hope that support translates into a commitment to solve our country’s child care crisis now or in the first 100 days of the next Administration.
We’re going to be working over the next two years to make sure this issue is high on the agenda, to push Republicans to work with us or explain why they won’t, and to stand with parents across the country who are demanding action. High-quality, affordable child care for every working family is an ambitious progressive vision—but if we keep making our voices heard, it will become a reality.