Universal child care has always been a topic worthy of discussion, but the current election season has brought the issue to the forefront once again. Whether you put your children in daycare or stay home with them is your choice; however, in recent years it has been brought to public attention that many parents don’t have the luxury of choosing. Many parents must work full time but are faced with the reality that daycares and preschools are costly – often $10,000 or more per year per child. For many this is unacceptable. One solution proposed is federally-funded universal child care.
So what is universal child care? Presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently introduced the Universal Child Care and Education Act with the goal of increasing access to high-quality, affordable child care across the country. Under Warren’s plan, the federal government would partner with local providers (cities, schools, churches, nonprofits, private daycares and preschools, etc.) to create a network of child care facilities, all regulated and subsidized by the federal government, much like the current Head Start program. Families would be charged for child care based on their income. For families making less than 200% of the federal poverty line (currently about $51,500 for a family of four), child care would be free. For those earning more, their costs would be capped at 7% of their income. Warren proposes paying for her child care plan with an Ultra-Millionaire Tax, or an annual tax on the wealth of those with a net worth of more than $50 million.
Moody’s estimates the cost of Warren’s child care program to be approximately $700 billion over the next decade. That’s certainly a lot of money, but is only a fraction of what the Ultra-Millionaire Tax is projected to generate. According to Moody’s, Warren’s universal child care plan would double the number of children under the age of five who enroll in formal child care and reduce the annual child care costs of the typical American family to less than $6,000 per year. This boosts economic growth by increasing labor force participation and hours worked by mothers, particularly single mothers and those with lower incomes. Aside from the economic benefits, this proposal would provide high-quality early educational opportunities for the kids that need it most, ensuring that more kids are kindergarten-ready by the time they start school. Considering that more than half of all children from poor families are not ready for kindergarten by the age of 5, free access to quality early educational programs is certainly a step in the right direction.