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DREAM Act and Early Childhood

This week, the Senate is expected to vote whether to include the DREAM Act as part of the current U.S. Department of Defense authorization bill. The DREAM Act would make it possible for the nation's estimated 2 million undocumented students to receive federal financial aid for college and provide them a pathway to citizenship.

The bill is well known in higher education circles; the National Association of College Admissions Counselors supports it as a measure to broaden college access. K-12 educators, especially those working with undocumented students, tend to know and support it as well. But it's not often thought of as affecting early childhood.

Here's why early-childhood advocates should be paying attention.

First, undocumented youth raised in the United States are likely to marry here and raise U.S. citizen children, at least for the time being. Separate research shows the mother's level of education has strong impact on her children's educational success, so the more we can do to open the doors to college for this group, the better chances their children should have when they enter school.

Second, from just knowing my neighbors I'm aware that there are young, undocumented women out there doing child care either to help pay for college or as a full-time job in lieu of higher education. I wonder how passing the DREAM Act would affect the pool of child care workers in this country. Would some undocumented nannies then hone their skills through early-childhood college courses? Would the best of them move out of the profession, leaving a lower-quality pool? (That's what happened when women generally were able to move into the professions.)

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