In case you haven’t heard us say it before, we’re in favor of universal, affordable, high-quality childcare.
You can imagine, then, how excited we are that President Joe Biden’s proposed American Families Plan advocates for greater investment in early childhood.
Yet, our optimism is guarded; Mr. President, we have questions.
Where is the coverage for our youngest children? The proposed legislation would help subsidize learning and care for three- and four-year-olds.
Yet, learning starts at birth. During the first few years of life millions of neural connections are formed—ones we all need to become healthy, capable adults. Without these connections, many people struggle in adulthood.
Plus, with the high cost of childcare, working families need support from the get-go. Without it, many new parents are forced to reduce work hours, patch together care supports, or forfeit jobs altogether.
How about year-round support? The same logic applies to summertime programming. Year-round affordability is needed to protect working families and the businesses that employ them.
You recently told the American people that competing in the global economy requires greater investment in early childhood. Shouldn’t this reasoning apply to our youngest children? Those who receive high-quality care are more likely to contribute positively to the economy as adults, workers, and consumers. One study demonstrated a 25 percent increase in earned income for 34-year-olds.
There are other reasons investing in early childhood would be a boon to the economy: those who participate in quality programs are less likely to need public assistance or rehabilitation later in life. There are now more than two million people incarcerated in the United States (as of 2019) at a cost of $182 billion a year, yet childcare has been shown to reduce criminal activity.
Even our national security is impacted. Did you know, a group of 750 retired military leaders believe the country’s lack of support for young children “jeopardizes our military readiness and threatens future national security?” It’s true. Mission: Readiness tells us that 71 percent of all Americans between the ages of 17 and 25 can’t qualify for military service, either because they’re too poorly educated, they have a criminal record, or they’re physically unfit.
Mission: Readiness offers a simple solution: “High quality early care can increase the number of young adults who qualify for military service by helping children succeed in school, maintain a healthy weight and stay on the right side of the law.” (This may be another reason why other countries invest so strongly in early childhood, in comparison to the United States.)
Would you consider adopting a version of Massachusetts’ own proposed legislation, the Common Start Legislation? All young children would be covered through income-based subsidies and bedrock funding for childcare providers. Businesses would enjoy a stronger, more qualified workforce and would benefit from increased consumer spending.
Most importantly, all children and families would have an opportunity to build healthier, happier, more productive lives.
President Biden, thank you for amplifying the conversation around early childhood. Now is the time to invest in truly universal, affordable, high-quality childcare. It’s right for children, families, businesses, and the country.