The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders is releasing what he says is “the most comprehensive and expansive early childhood policy ever proposed by a candidate running for president,” except that he does not attach a price tag nor say how it will be paid for. Separately, in a “60 Minutes” interview, he said the undetermined amount would be paid for from a wealth tax (Senator Elizabeth Warren has said the same thing, except she attaches dollar figures to her proposal.) This is from the Sanders campaign:
Sen. Bernie Sanders released the most comprehensive and expansive early childhood policy ever proposed by a candidate running for president, including guaranteeing free, high-quality child care for all children from infancy and pre-k starting at age three.
“Childcare must be guaranteed for every child regardless of their parents’ income, just like K-12 education. We know that the first four years of a child’s life are the most important years of human development, so it is unconscionable that in the wealthiest country in the world, we do not properly invest in early childhood education.” Sanders said. “As president, we will guarantee free, universal childcare and pre-kindergarten to every child in America to help level the playing field, create new and good jobs, and enable parents more easily balance the demands of work and home.”
Today in America, our child care and pre-kindergarten system is failing our children, our parents, and our child care and early education workers. Not only is our child care infrastructure and access to high-quality care and early learning lacking throughout the country, child care is unaffordable in every single state in America.
The average family in America today spends nearly $10,000 a year on child care. For low-income families, the burden is even higher: a full 35 percent of these families’ income goes toward child care. According to a survey conducted last year, over half of mothers worked less hours to save on child care costs, and a quarter of moms left the workforce entirely due to care for their children.
Our dysfunctional system also punishes the people who take care of, nurture, and educate our youngest children. Child care workers, on average, make just $11 an hour despite the skyrocketing costs of child care and early education. Even though they take on the most important job in America – caring for our children – child care workers, 96 percent of whom are women and are disproportionately women of color, are paid starvation wages.
In the richest country in the history of the world, we have a moral responsibility as a nation to guarantee high-quality care and education for every single child, regardless of background or family income. We owe it to our children, parents, and child care workers to do much better.
As President, Bernie will:
Guarantee every child in America free full-day, full-week, high-quality child care from infancy through age three, regardless of income.
Provide child care at least 10 hours a day and ensure programs operate at times to serve parents who work non-traditional hours.
Guarantee every child access to a full-day, full-week pre-kindergarten education, regardless of income, starting at age 3.
Ensure students with disabilities receive the support they need and are included with their peers from an early age.
Double funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, which supports home visiting services from nurses, mental health professionals, social workers, and other support professionals for families with young children who live in low-income and at-risk communities.
Pass Bernie’s Universal School Meals Act that he introduced with Rep. Ilhan Omar to provide year-round, free universal school meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks — to every child in child care and pre-k.
Construct, renovate, or rehabilitate the child care facilities and pre-schools we need throughout the country.
Enact Bernie’s Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education to make transformative investments in our public education system to ensure the developmental gains made by implementing universal child care and pre-k are built upon when children start their K-12 education and:
More than double the number of early childhood educators in this country from over 1.3 million to more than 2.6 million.
Guarantee everyone working in the field of early education a living wage, ensure all are compensated commensurate with their experience and training, and ensure all lead teachers are paid no less than similarly qualified kindergarten teachers.
Require anyone providing direct service to young children have at least child a Child Development Associates (CDA) credential, all assistant teachers have at least an Associate’s Degree in early childhood education or child development, and all lead preschool teachers have a Bachelor’s Degree in early childhood education or child development.
Guarantee support for existing and new early care and learning professionals to get the education required to care for and teach young children, within a reasonable phase-in period, and ensure that these professionals reflect the cultural, linguistic, racial and ethnic diversity of the communities they serve.
Ensure that all early childhood educators have access to ongoing high-quality professional development that includes coaching and mentoring.
Provide early childhood workers with strong protections for unionizing, sector-wide collective bargaining, workers’ rights, workplace safety, and fair scheduling, regardless of immigration status, and that they have the information and tools they need to act on these rights and protections through the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act introduced by Rep. Pramilla Jayapal and enacting Bernie’s Workplace Democracy plan.
The full plan can be found here.