President-Elect Joe Biden’s Plan for Early Childhood Education
My hope is if there’s one silver lining from this pandemic, it’s that parents of young children will never take the work of early childhood education teachers and caregivers for granted ever again.
This past Spring, as public school systems, private daycares, and Head Start programs began to shutter their doors to protect the health of students and staff, parents all of the sudden found themselves in the roles of both parent and teacher, all day, every day.
The lack of childcare options meant that many parents had to choose between work or their kids. My guess is that for some middle and upper income families, this is the first time they’ve had to make that choice. For lower income Americans, this difficult choice has always been a part of their lives. Their options for early childhood and pre-school education have always been limited. The few programs like Head Start that are designed to serve them have limited capacity. They fill up quickly. Or there may be other barriers to entry, such as language, transportation, or lack of awareness about options.
During this pandemic, families of all income levels have had to make caregiving decisions that come with unfortunate financial, professional, physical and emotion costs. It is my hope that the silver lining hopefully extends into real policy changes during the next administration that can benefit everyone.
Back in July, then-candidate Joe Biden first released his proposal for early childhood education, titled “The Biden Plan for Mobilizing American Talent and Heart to Create a 21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce.” The estimated $775 billion plan over 10 years not only focuses on early childhood care, but also elder and disability care.
“The most important test of being an American president… the duty to care…,” said Biden at the time of its release.
It seems obvious to me that the term “care” was used with great intention here, particularly at a time when working parents and caregivers of all types were really feeling the squeeze of the lack of options, and maybe felt like no one cared about their struggles.
“Caregivers and early childhood educators – disproportionately women of color – have been underpaid, unseen, and undervalued for far too long,” it states in the plan.
Now that Biden has been elected the 46th President of the United States, let’s take a quick look at the specific policy proposals in his “Caregiving and Education Workforce” plan, specifically as it relates to early childhood education and Head Start.
“Provide all 3-and 4-year olds access to free, high-quality pre-kindergarten” by “partnering with states to provide a mixed delivery system that includes public school systems, child care centers and family care providers, and Head Start.”
In short, more funding to expand the capacity of existing preschool programs and the ability to open more programs, Head Start or otherwise. How that funding will be allocated between public/private, state/local/federal is not spelled out.
Child Care Tax Credits
Families will get back as a tax credit as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13, up to a total of $8,000 for one child or $16,000 for two or more children.
Currently, that threshold is set to a maximum of $3,000 for one child, or $6,000 for two children.
Expand Access to Care
“Biden will provide incentives for providers to fill critical child care shortages, including in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends, and in many rural communities that have few providers today.“
This paragraph specifically mentions Early Head Start as a means to fill those gaps, which aims to double the amount of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.
These are just a few of the policy proposals included in the Biden “Caregiving” plan, all they say are designed to “improve accessibility and affordability of early child care.”
Other proposals covered in the plan are sliding scale subsidies to help with childcare costs, investing in quality child care standards, and ensuring that the child care workforce is well-trained and well-compensated. Much of the specifics have already been laid out in a 2019 bipartisan Senate bill called “Child Care for Working Families Act,” a bill that Biden says he supports and will work to get passed.
“If we truly want to reward work in this country,” the Biden plan summarizes, “we have to ease the financial burden of care that families are carrying, and we have to elevate the compensation, benefits, training and education opportunities for certification, and dignity of caregiving workers and educators.”
What do you think about President-Elect Joe Biden’s plan? Leave your comments below!