American Families Plan
Right now, your friends, your neighbors, and maybe members of your own families are facing decisions about going back to work, changing jobs or even leaving the workforce altogether as they struggle with child care challenges. Studies have shown that this issue is impacting women’s participation in the workforce at an alarming pace. Child care access and affordability were issues facing Georgians and the rest of our country long before Covid but the pandemic has certainly shone a spotlight on these issues. The system is badly broken, but it can be fixed.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are making decisions right now that will determine whether Congress will pass a major investment in America’s child care and early learning system. This opportunity for such a significant infusion of vital funding will close in just a few short months so action needs to be taken now. We need to ensure lawmakers in Washington hear loud and clear that child care and early learning must be a top priority with significant, sustained funding in the upcoming reconciliation package.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges of the existing structure of America’s child care market and what makes it unsustainable. Most parents can’t afford the high cost of care; in fact, the cost of high quality care for an infant in Atlanta can cost up to 40% of a low income family’s salary. And while we do have a state program that provides child care scholarships to low income working families, funding constraints mean that only about 14% of eligible families can access that program. And because private tuition does not usually cover the actual costs of high-quality early care and education, providers of all sizes are faced with an entirely untenable business model that often translates into near-poverty wages even for highly experienced and trained early educators.
The benefits of a system of affordable, high quality child care options for families extends far beyond our current workforce needs. High quality early education experiences help support early brain development of our youngest children leading to school success and better long-term health outcomes. Fixing the child care system is a win for the economy, a win for working parents and a win for children.
Congress is currently considering two major legislative packages, including President Biden’s American Families Plan, which contains a historic proposal with significant investments in child care and preschool. The reality is, this is a once in a lifetime shot to get significant dollars into a system that was broken prior to Covid. Now is the time to build a system of early care and education that works, and we need you to use your voice. Contact your Georgia US Senators and Georgia US Representatives today and voice your support for significant, sustained federal funding for child care and preschool, and for the provisions in the American Families Plan to be passed through the budget reconciliation package
Mindy Binderman is the Executive Director of GEEARS, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. Find out more at https://geears.org.