In recent months 2016 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have discussed their childcare policy proposals. The mere fact that childcare found its way into the limelight gives me hope for families going to work while raising children today. Several pieces from the Council on Contemporary Families help to sketch where childcare policy has been and where it might go.
Will Obama’s Vision of Child Care Overcome Nixon’s Legacy?
For a great timeline of when and in what context childcare policy has been a central issue, take a look at sociologist Carole Joffe’s article, “Will Obama’s Vision of Child Care Overcome Nixon’s Legacy?”. Joffe summarizes the events of Nixon’s refusal to allow the Comprehensive Child Development Act to pass and the social implications that accompanied that refusal. She also notes that President Obama’s message of support for quality and affordable childcare has made the issue visible again.
The Nixon record is more complicated than many think. In “Is TANF Working for Struggling Millennial Parents?”—on the 20th anniversary of Welfare Reform–Shawn Fremstad recently noted that in his first administration Nixon called for equal benefits for all children no matter where they were from because, “no child is worth more in one State than in another State.”
America’s Fragmented Child Care and Early Education System
In “America’s Fragmented Child Care and Early Education System,” Sara Gable (University of Missouri), reviews the conditions of childcare in 2015. Gable makes it clear that our current childcare policies are not adequately addressing family struggles. Part-time childcare programs do not align with the needs of working families who are at it full time. High costs mean low-income families must spend significant portions of their income on childcare. When children get to childcare, Gable also notes, their experiences aren’t uniform. Teacher qualification policies across different states and childcare programs are inconsistent, ranging from only needing your high school diploma or GED to requiring a BA in education. Taking these shortcomings into account, Gable suggests raising professional standards for teachers and investing in childcare services the way that Sweden and Finland have.
The State of Affordable Child Care
In “The State of Affordable Child Care” sociologist Perry Threlfall shows how current childcare policies influence financial stability and economic growth for families. Threlfall notes that without affordable and quality childcare programs, working families are not able to fully participate in the workforce. She also brings light to the flaws in both the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit programs the U.S. government currently offers. Lastly, Threlfall discusses Center for American Progress Vice-President of Policy Carmel Martin’s proposal to provide a refundable tax credit that would allow low-income families to access quality childcare.
Schools didn’t start it. Achievement gaps start earlier.
In “Schools didn’t start it. Achievement gaps start earlier” Economic Policy Institute’s Elaine Weiss aims to correct the notion that schools are where achievement gaps begin and are responsible for closing them. Instead, she argues that the same system that created our staggering income inequality has also been a force behind the achievement gap. In other words, it comes down to money. Weiss explains that without an influx of educational resources low-income students will continue to enter school at a disadvantage and the schools will not be able to do much to help them. Weiss proposes fixes, including national investments in early education, higher wages for education professionals, and a further push on our current presidential candidates to concentrate on the matter of childcare and the achievement gap.
Megan Peterson is a Council on Contemporary Families Public Affairs Intern and a senior sociology major at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.