Issue 29 • Week of July 31, 2022
America ranks third to last among 38 OECD countries in prioritizing early childhood education and care, ahead of only Cyprus and Turkey. The pandemic closed 60% of programs nationwide at one point, shining a spotlight on families' need of reliable, affordable, quality preschool or child care and their associated benefits to the economy. More than 80% of voters now agree it is a necessity like education and healthcare.
Parents may be surprised to learn then that we actually had a successful national program nearly 80 years ago. The US government jumpstarted universal child care at a cost of $350 million per year to support working mothers. Local groups augmented this investment with an additional $100 million per year primarily by charging minimal fees for usage to build daycare facilities in almost 400 communities and subsidize over 3,000 centers nationwide. Over 600,000 children aged 2-5 were at some point cared for at a cost to parents of today's equivalent of $7 per day which included lunch and snacks.
National child care support was among the most patriotic of legislation ever passed, enabling Rosie the Riveter to become a generational icon who helped us win WWII. Yet the program was not renewed in 1946 after the war ended and has never been implemented since.
How can we modernize this essential service to reboot our current abysmal system and invest in our future?
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