Last fall, excitement buzzed around the federal Build Back Better bill. It was a sweeping social spending bill that promised to make a historic investment in early education and care, including universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and more affordable, high-quality child care.
The bill was passed in the House. Excitement grew. But in the Senate, Build Back Better faced opposition it could not overcome.
What emerged months later was a compromise – the Inflation Reduction Act – which had no funding at all for early education and care.
A Hechinger Report article sums up the field’s reaction: disappointment and determination.
“ ‘It’s heartbreaking,’ Julie Kashen, a senior fellow and director for women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, said, while also noting the need to build upon some of the positive publicity that came out of the protracted battle. ‘Child care has become a national issue in a very powerful way. We are closer than we had been in 50 years,’ she said. ‘What else can we do but continue to fight?’ ”
“That’s why Kashen is already looking to what’s next: boosting a national movement and building a web of advocates who help keep child care needs front and center for legislators and businesses. ‘Employers must speak up so people understand that this is not a family problem, it’s an economic issue, and it is something Congress has to act upon,’ Kashen said.”
Mark Reilly has a similar response: Seize the momentum and move forward.
Reilly is the vice president of Policy & Government Relations at Jumpstart, which trains college students to provide literacy support in preschool settings and conducts policy advocacy at the state and federal level.
“Senator Patty Murray and her staff are fully committed to making this happen,” Reilly said in a recent interview about Murray, a democrat from Washington state and chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. “They believe in the importance of making early childhood investments. They know it’s important for the future for our children, and it’s also important for the future of a healthy economy. They’re not going to stop fighting and neither is Senator Schumer.” Chuck Schumer is New York’s senator and the Senate Majority Leader.
“And Senator Tim Scott, a republican from South Carolina, had rolled out a set of early childhood and child care priorities. We’re seeing bipartisan progress and a growth in understanding.”
The need for progress is huge. As Hechinger explains:
“Students may be back in classrooms, but parents are still having trouble getting spots in child care centers, where waiting lists are longer than ever and after-school programs are in many cases full.”
To learn more about the demand, Hechinger is asking for feedback on unusual and challenging child care arrangements:
“The Hechinger Report’s Jackie Mader has spent years reporting on these issues, and wants to hear your stories to help her assess the current landscape of U.S. child care and the lingering effects of the pandemic. Parents and caregivers, how are you coping? Did you adopt an unusual arrangement to find post-pandemic care for your children or did you change jobs to watch your children at home while you’re working? Are you still dealing with after-school care shortages? How do you feel about the arrangements you’ve made?
“Please tell us about your experiences. Click here to get in touch with Jackie. Your stories will help our continued reporting on the child care crisis we’ve explored for years, one many of us are living with as well as reporting on. We will not share your story without your permission.”
Be sure to reach out and share your stories.
And take this advice from Reilly, who says:
“We wanted the significant federal investment in Build Back Better but we didn’t get the votes. Nonetheless, if you step back, you see the headway that’s being made in a bipartisan fashion. All of that is encouraging, even in the face of this frustrating loss.
“Sometimes you lose in politics. Sometimes you don’t have the votes. But we can’t stop advocating for families. We can’t stop advocating for children.”