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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston website

The title of new article posted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston makes an optimistic point: “The solution is no secret, we can fix child care.”

Child care is broken, the article’s authors Sarah Ann Savage and her colleagues concede, but “child care providers, program directors, and other field experts know how to make high-quality care and early education accessible to all. It’s really no secret: Major public investment and committed political will are what’s needed.”

“The task is big, but it is not unprecedented,” the article adds. “It took both political will and public investment to implement our public K-12 system. And today there are bellwethers suggesting the time may finally be ripe to revisit our relatively minimal public investment in child care.”

This willingness and public investment would help address nagging challenges such as the high cost of early education and care, especially for low-income families.

“Models indicate that eliminating child care expenses for low-income families and capping child care expenses at 7% of income for others would decrease poverty by 40% among New Englanders in families that use child care. Covering or mitigating child care costs would also be a small step toward equity, as the poverty reduction is greatest for Black and Hispanic families.”

Another challenge that could be addressed is the field’s persistently low pay.

“In a mostly private market, child care providers are paying educators via tuition from just a few families, and they can’t pay more without raising tuition – and pricing some parents out.

“The result is that today early educators earn about one-third the wages of elementary school teachers, despite often-similar responsibilities, training, and education requirements.”

Specifically, the Federal Reserve bank found “that 12% of early educators live below the poverty line, far higher than the average of 5.2% for all adults in the labor force. This under-compensation fuels annual turnover as high as 30%, which produces disruptions in care that are stressful to both children and parents – a fact on vivid display during the pandemic.”

Indeed, the pandemic “provided an opportunity for a natural experiment: It forced the nation to consider what happens when workers don’t have access to child care.”

It’s an experiment that has failed miserably, driving parents, especially mothers, out of the workforce, and leaving employers scrambling to fill jobs.

Fortunately, the United States can fix these problems by choosing to “make history by making investments that will benefit our children – and our economy – for generations to come.”

This is straightforward and badly needed advice – especially since the country is poised to make such an investment through the federal Build Back Better bill, which has passed in the House and awaits action in the Senate.

Please check out the article and share it with your networks.