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— Vice President Harris’ Facebook page, April 15, 2021

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The United States could build a universal preschool system in 30 years.

That’s according to NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research), which has come up with a two-part plan based on federal, state, and local government sharing costs.

“At its current pace and without federal government leadership, the United States won’t reach all children with free preschool before 2100,” NIEER Founder and Senior co-Director Steven Barnett says in a press release.

Currently, publicly-funded preschool in the United States serves only 1.8 million children, NIEER estimates. Most states, including Massachusetts, deploy their public funding to the mixed-delivery system of early education and care, which includes center-based programs, Head Start programs, and public school districts.

NIEER’s plan “calls on the federal government to match state and local-level investments in high-quality preschool for children under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This focus will expand high-quality preschool to 2.5 million more low-income 3- and 4-year-olds by 2040.

“Building on this foundation, state and local governments would be able to expand their preschool programs to reach all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2050 and achieve universal high-quality preschool in all 50 states.

“The cost-sharing plan would enable states to set high preschool quality standards, provide children full-day preschool 180 days a year, and support competitive salaries for well-qualified teachers.” (more…)

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“Both our failing physical infrastructure and the impossible choices we impose on caregivers put our nation at a competitive disadvantage. If it is the road that gets you to work, it is the child care that gets you through the day, and workers are counting on these supports.”

“Child care needs to be a guarantee, not an expensive hassle that drives parents out of the workforce or makes them choose between wages and family. We will make it easier for people to find the care that fits their specific needs. And we will put an end to a structure that depends on the exploitation of child care workers to make child care affordable, and increase wages for the essential workers helping [to] raise the next generation.”

 

A letter from U.S. Representative Richard Neal, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, April 5, 2021. See also “Top Democrat calling for expansion of child care support,” by Joseph Choi, The Hill, April 6, 2021

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Screen Shot 2021-03-30 at 10.07.35 AMHow are children and parents doing during the pandemic?

The University of Oregon has been using nationwide surveys – the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development-Early Childhood or RAPID-EC — to ask families.

The goal is to “collect essential information from households and families with young children and to provide actionable data to key stakeholders to inform immediate and long-term policy decisions.”

Recent survey results – shared at an Alliance for Early Success webinar — highlight five topics:

• parent emotional well-being (stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness)

• child emotional well-being (fussiness and feeling upset, fearful, or anxious)

• economic situation/ability to pay for basic needs, including food, housing, and utilities

• child care challenges, including availability, perceptions of safety, barriers to access, preference for type of care, role of childcare provider, and

• pediatric healthcare: well-baby/well child visit adherence, routine vaccinations, barriers to access, plans for COVID vaccination

These challenges have a ripple effect, as this slide explains: (more…)

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pexels-ivan-samkov-6816531

Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

How, specifically, can the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – a federal COVID-19 relief package — help child care?

Here are some new, national tools and reports that have good answers.

Infants and toddlers: Get details on the opportunities for infants and toddlers on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at noon, when the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center will host a webinar. The policy impact center has also released a research brief that says in part: “The American Rescue Plan represents an unprecedented increase in funding for programs that improve the lives of families with young children. From the expanded child tax credit to economic stimulus payments and billions more in child care funding, this law provides a buffer for families, workers, caregivers, and child-serving organizations during an economic and public health emergency.”

The brief also explains how the American Rescue Plan ties into the impact center’s early childhood policy roadmap, which we blogged about here. The impact center is based at the University of Texas Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Fixing child care – and making it stronger than before: Last year, Opportunities Exchange, an early childhood nonprofit, published Louise Stoney’s article, “REINVENT vs. REBUILD: Let’s Fix the Child Care System.” Stoney, the co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, writes about the financial instability that early education and care programs have faced both before and during the pandemic. Stoney also recommends a “Child Care Come-Back Plan” that federal Covid funds could support. This plan explains how “public and private sector leaders” can “effectively lead a child care come-back effort” that includes provider-based technology, business coaching, and new rate setting strategies. (more…)

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Much needed federal relief for the child care sector is on its way to states. And President Joseph Biden says the investment could cut child poverty in half.

Last week, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was approved by the Senate. The House is expected to vote on the measure by Wednesday morning at the latest.

The plan, which provides sweeping support for COVID-19 recovery, “offers a bold investment in child care relief, finally delivering on the promise of a total of at least $50 billion in direct relief funding,” according to the national nonprofit CLASP (The Center for Law and Social Policy).

 

 

(more…)

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How have families been doing during the pandemic?

NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) used a national survey to find out.

“The pandemic has dealt a one-two punch to the nation’s young children, decreasing opportunities to learn in preschool programs while sapping parents’ capacity to support learning at home,” W. Steven Barnett says in a news release. Barnett is NIEER’s senior co-director and founder and an author of the survey report.

The survey results were collected in December 2020 “from a nationally representative sample of one thousand and one parents of children age three to five.” This builds on a previous survey that NIEER conducted last spring.

“Overall, we found the pandemic resulted in significant loss of important learning opportunities for young children through the fall into December,” NIEER says in a press release.

“Participation in preschool programs declined sharply from pre-pandemic levels. Although most who attended preschool programs did so in-person, this was not true for young children in poverty who had less than 1/3 the access to in-person education of children in higher income families.” (more…)

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“Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, suggested on Wednesday that improved child care support policies from the government might help pull more women into the labor market.

“The Fed chief studiously avoided commenting on specific government policy proposals during three hours of wide-ranging testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. But he did acknowledge, in response to a question, that enabling better options for affordable child-care is an ‘area worth looking at’ for Congress.

“ ‘Our peers, our competitors, advanced economy democracies, have a more built-up function for child care, and they wind up having substantially higher labor force participation for women,’ Mr. Powell said, answering a question from Representative Cindy Axne, an Iowa Democrat. ‘We used to lead the world in female labor force participation, a quarter-century ago, and we no longer do. It may just be that those policies have put us behind.’ ”

 

“Powell Says Better Child Care Policies Might Lift Women in Work Force,” by Jeanna Smialek, The New York Times, February 24, 2021

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The pandemic is decimating the early education and care workforce.

A new publication — that draws on the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — explains how. 

“As we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, child care has been hailed as essential, yet policy responses to COVID-19 have mostly ignored educators themselves, leaving most to choose between their livelihood and their health,” the report – “Early Childhood Workforce Index 2020” – says.

The index is released every two years by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), based at the University of California Berkeley

“Over the course of the first eight months of the pandemic, 166,000 jobs in the child care industry were lost. As of October 2020, the industry was only 83 percent as large as it was in February, before the pandemic began.”

“Even before the pandemic, the index found, progress toward better compensation had been limited and uneven across states and among different classifications of early educators,” a news release explains. “Child care workers earn a national median wage of just $11.65 an hour for a job that is critically important not just to children and their parents, but to the entire U.S. economy.”

“…many child care workers number among America’s working poor, with wages too low to make ends meet,” the news release adds.

“For single adults working in child care, pay falls short of a living wage in a majority of states. For single adults with one child of their own, the median wage is not enough to live on in any state.” (more…)

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Businesses and companies are paying more attention to their workers’ child care needs – and bringing welcome energy to efforts to build a child care system that is stronger than ever.

As we’ve blogged, a new organization, the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education, is advocating across the state.

And last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia hosted a webinar, “The Business Case for Employer Assisted Childcare,” that explored actions businesses can take to support working parents.

The webinar features insights from business and community leaders that can and should be shared with local, statewide, and national businesses.

Julia Barfield, formerly with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation spoke first, explaining that companies are paying some of the “hidden costs” of poor access to child care.

One example: When a worker quits because they can’t find child care, companies spend 20 percent of that worker’s total compensation to find a replacement. (more…)

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