Sanders calls U.S. child care system a ‘disaster’

Kevin Hardy, The Des Moines Register 

Calling the current state of American child care a “disaster,” Sen. Bernie Sanders pledged to open up access to high-quality, affordable child care and preschool.

Sanders, an independent Vermont senator, is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. On Friday he said working families are frantically searching for high-quality, affordable child care and early childhood education.

“And we basically turn our backs on it,” Sanders said.

In a conference room at Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33 in Des Moines, Sanders addressed children’s issues at a roundtable, sponsored by the nonprofit Every Child Matters Education Fund. Later in the evening, Sanders drew more than 1,200 at a town hall meeting in West Des Moines.

At the roundtable, Sanders promised to address issues like child care and preschool access. The U.S. is the richest country in the history of the world, Sanders said, yet it has the highest childhood poverty rate of any major nation — an issue that he said other politicians seem to ignore. With middle-class parents working long hours, many kids are missing out on important educational opportunities during their formative early years, Sanders said. Aside from being too expensive, he said, child-care workers are severely underpaid.

“To allow child-care workers, people who work with these little kids, to be making McDonalds-type wages is an embarrassment,” he said. “We need the best trained, best paid, most qualified people to be working with these young kids.”

Sanders said he’d pay for early childhood programs the same way he would fund other platform hallmarks such as free college: by asking the wealthiest to pay more in taxes and taxing Wall Street speculation.

Later in the evening, Sanders packed a 1,200-seat auditorium at Valley High School, where he stumped for nearly 90 minutes — his first such speech in the metro since aJune 12 appearance at Drake University.

“He really just talks about the issues,” said Esther Hoffa, 66. “I’m amazed by that.”

Hoffa, who usually votes Democrat, said she’s drawn to Sanders’ message on climate change and ridding politics of big money. A retired bed and breakfast operator, Hoffa said she decided to pick an underdog. But she still likes his chances.

“I hope he ignites people,” she said, “because he sure ignites me.”


SETTINGS: Conference room at Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33 in Des Moines; 1,200-seat auditorium at Valley High School in West Des Moines

CROWD: Twenty-one people joined Sanders on the roundtable, and about 25 other supporters, staffers and press were present. The town hall meeting in West Des Moines had more than 1,200 supporters.

REACTION: At the roundtable, children’s advocates listened intently and quietly. The town hall meeting was often interrupted by applause and standing ovations.

Originally published July 24, 2015 The Des Moines Register (IA)