How to Solve America’s Child Care Crisis

Our friend Vivien Labaton, Co-Founder of the MakeItWork Campaign, wrote a column for POLITICO Magazine highlighting the astronomical cost of child care in the U.S. today and the political setbacks and successes of childcare assistance policies since the Nixon administration. With a majority of voters supporting affordable child care nation-wide, the next president should enact a child care policy that works for working families.

November 9, 2015

Every election cycle, candidates assiduously court the women’s vote—but fail to show us what they are going to do to materially improve women’s lives. Child care now costs more than in-state college tuition or housing in most states, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute think tank. That high cost means that it’s no surprise that child care is out of reach even for many middle-class families and downright impossible for low-wage workers. Unfortunately, that conclusion isn’t much of a surprise to any mother or father who has tried to go back to work.

What might be a surprise, though, is that giving America’s working parents access to safe, high-quality child care didn’t used to be a controversial, partisan idea on the campaign trail. A Republican president came close to solving this problem a few decades ago—President Richard Nixon almost signed a comprehensive child care bill in 1971 after a bipartisan Congress passed it. The Comprehensive Child Development Act would have established a network of nationally funded child care centers to provide quality education, nutrition and medical services. The centers would have been locally administered and open to families of all income levels on a sliding scale basis. For the first two years, the bill authorized $2 billion, or $10 billion today, after adjusting for inflation.

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