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Child-Care, Early-Learning Bill Gets Backing From Democrats Seeking White House


The top House and Senate Democrats for education have reintroduced previous legislation to boost child-care and early-learning services—and several Democrats seeking the presidency next year have signed on in support. 

On Tuesday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., unveiled the Child Care for Working Families Act, which is designed to both expand access to and improve the quality of child-care as well as early-learning programs. We wrote about the legislation when Democrats first introduced it in 2017. This new bill is very similar. 

According to a fact sheet from the Democrats, the bill would, among other things:

• Provide for cost-sharing between the federal government and states to provide high-quality, affordable child care from birth through age 13.

• More than double the number of children eligible for child care assistance, and ensure all those who are eligible have the ability to enroll their child in a quality program.

• Provide incentives and funding for states to create high-quality preschool programs for low and moderate-income 3- and 4-year-olds during the school day, while providing a higher matching rate for programs for infants and toddlers, who are often harder and more expensive to care for.

• Increase workforce training and compensation, including by ensuring that all child care workers are paid at least a living wage and parity with elementary school teachers if they have similar credentials and experience.

"This bill is big, and it's bold," Murray said in a press conference Tuesday. The proposals in the bill will "jump-start the economy," she added. 

What's also notable about the legislation is that all of the Democratic senators who have declared their intention to seek the party's presidential nomination in 2020 have signed on as co-sponsors: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D- N.Y., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, is also backing the legislation.) 

Child care and other costs associated with raising young children could take up a big share of the spotlight in the Democratic primary, while elementary and secondary education may recede somewhat by comparison. 

Warren, for example, introduced a proposal last month to provide universal child-care and early-learning programs. Under Warren's legislation, families earning below 200 percent of the federal povery level, or about $51,000 for a family of four, could access these programs at no cost. 

The proposal has more than 100 co-sponsors combined in the House and Senate. 

Image: Screen capture of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introducing the Child Care for Working Families Act at a press conference on Feb. 26, 2019. 

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