American families struggle to find quality, affordable child care and preschool close to home. More and more parents and educators are realizing that children have a better chance of success in school and life if they are enrolled in effective programs in their earliest years.
Given that this issue affects so many Americans, why have candidates so rarely mentioned it on the 2012 campaign trail? What should Obama and Romney be saying about child care and early learning policies? Are there important, yet unmentioned, links between programs for children and greater job prospects for their parents?
A recent New America event tackled these issues. Highlights from the conversation are below:
On September 27, David Gray and Lisa Guernsey from the New America Foundation's Workforce and Family and Early Education teams led a discussion about how investments in quality, affordable childcare and in early learning can have dual generational benefits that make a difference in the social mobility of families.
Thus far, the Obama and Romney campaigns have given virtually no attention to childcare, focusing instead on how to create jobs. But good childcare policies can promote job growth now and in the future, suggested panelists at the event.
Lisa Guernsey from New America argued that candidates should be making obvious connections between early childhood and K-12 education reforms. Candidates could use the issue of childcare to talk about improving conditions and job opportunities for the middle class, and as part of a broader education reform narrative: Turning schools around won’t work without early learning investments. Childcare policy is even an offramp into a conversation about strengthening family life and family values, she noted.
Grace Reef from ChildCareAware suggested that access to affordable, quality child care for workers can strengthen the economy. Child care often serves as an early learning program, she said, adding that 11 million kids are in child care.
Helen Blank of the National Women’s Law Center pointed out that most low-income women who were expected to work didn't earn enough to afford child care. That was true 25 years ago and it's still true today.
The panelists pointed to research about the importance of early childhood education and the economic advantages of offering child care to help workers. Policy ideas to promote access to child care, however, haven't been at the forefront of recent political debate. In the near future, relative improvements could come from Congress' work on reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides childcare funding for low income families. David Gray gave an update about the Senate HELP committee’s progress on the legislation, which is focused on improving child safety and the quality of care in the program.
Watch the video above to learn more about the economics and politics of good childcare policies.
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