“At the root of this crisis is America’s relationship with child care itself. Unlike every other developed country, the United States has never, with the exception of a few years during World War II, treated child care as an essential service. Since at least the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon vetoed a bipartisan effort to implement a universal child-care system because it had what he called ‘family-weakening implications,’ the industry has been cast as a personal choice — more specifically, a mother’s choice.
‘We have never valued the work that goes into caring for our families — we’ve never accounted for it, we have made it invisible and have always taken for granted that women will shoulder the responsibility,’ said Ai-jen Poo, senior adviser for the nonprofit Care in Action and an expert on the care economy.”
“Proving that leaving Congress sometimes makes it easier to find bipartisan accord, former Democratic Rep. George Miller, of California, and former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, have come together to back a dozen child-related policies they say can be supported on both sides of the aisle.
Create a competitive-grant program to encourage states to design state-level tax programs that increase access to high-quality early-childhood programs.
Encourage states to establish minimum levels of training and competencies for their child-care workforce and to improve professional development systems for the child-care workforce in ways that have been shown to impact child outcomes.
The full report offers more recommendations and rationales on why these particular recommendations should be adopted quickly.”
As Paul Reville says, “What we actually have now is a felicitous dovetailing of our moral obligations and our economic imperatives.”
Here is another case in point countering the idea that all social services discourage work. From “Supply-Side Economics, but for Liberals” in the New York Times:
“Economists have often taken it as a given that there is an inherent trade-off in which the larger the social safety net, the fewer people will work …
But what if that framing is backward? Certain social welfare policies, according to an emerging body of research, may actually encourage more people to work and enable them to do so more productively …
Child care subsidies appear to work [this way]. It’s a pretty straightforward equation that when government intervention makes child care services cheaper than they would otherwise be, people who might otherwise stay home raising their children instead work. More women work in countries that subsidize child care and offer generous parental leave than in those that don’t …
For example, the food stamp program was introduced gradually in the United States from 1961 to 1975. [Researchers] have found that low-income children who benefited from the program were healthier and more likely to be working decades later than otherwise similar children in counties where the program arrived later. There is similar evidence of long-term economic benefits from high-quality childhood education.”
While the scramble to find affordable child care has drawn a lot of attention, prompting President Obama to label it “a must have” economic priority, the struggles of the workers — mostly women — who provide that care have not.
Yet the fortunes of both are inextricably intertwined. “You can’t separate the quality of children’s experiences from the knowledge, skills and well-being of early educators,” said Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.
At the report’s heart is the recognition that supporting the growth and development of young children from birth through age eight—including their cognitive development, their social-emotional development, and so much more—is complex and challenging work. Parents, of course, are primary in children’s development, and a forthcoming report from the Academies will examine the parenting side of early childhood. But last week’s report addresses the skills of adults who are paid for working with and teaching young children. It recognizes that helping to develop children’s bodies and minds requires much more than putting out snacks and coloring books. Yet many parts of today’s early education system, or in many cases, its non-system, do not help adults provide much more than that.
“For too long,” the report states, “the nation has been making do with the systems and policies that are rather than envisioning the systems and policies that are needed, and committing to the strategies necessary to achieve them.”
“There’s a disconnect between our 21st-century knowledge about early childhood teaching and these 20th-century wages,” says Phillips. “We desperately need educated young people to be working with young children, but they look at this job and say, ‘It’s a pathway to poverty. I can’t pay my student loans if I do this.’ ”
“Wages come out as the strongest predictor of observed quality of care,” says Phillips. “The caliber of teachers is tied to their wages.”
Better-paid teachers and caregivers have lower turnover, can afford more training, and, not incidentally, are less stressed and preoccupied — not a small consideration when screaming tantrums are a normal part of the workday.
“Policymakers and the business community are all now turning to early childhood education as one of the best investments we can make,” says Phillips. “But if you don’t pay adequate wages, you undermine the very thing that produces that value.”