Hoping motherhood can inspire Chelsea to push for affordable child care

Editor’s Note: This blog is a repost of a Chicago Tribune article written on September 29, 2014 by Heidi Stevens (@heidistevens13).

Chelsea Clinton with family

For the love of baby Charlotte, can we please do something about the cost of day care now?

Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky, as you know, welcomed a baby girl into the world over the weekend. Charlotte’s life probably won’t be uneventful. (The New York Post already labeled her “another liberal crybaby” on its tasteless front page Sunday.)

But neither will it be disadvantaged. Her dad is an investment banker and her mom pulled in a reported $600,000 annually from NBC News, where she was a special correspondent for the past three years. Quality child care won’t break this couple.

But Chelsea could make it her signature platform at the non-profit Clinton Foundation, which counts “empowering women and girls” among its noteworthy missions.

According to the 12-year-old foundation’s website: “Our programs empower women and girls by expanding access to education, increasing economic opportunity, and providing critical health care to young mothers and their newborns. Our goal is to lift millions of women out of poverty — and with them, their families and entire communities.”

Affordable child care would be a great place to start. Currently, the Census reports that 12.5 million children 5 and younger are enrolled in child care. In 35 states and Washington, D.C., a year of center-based infant care costs more than a year of in-state tuition plus fees at a four-year public university, according to a 2012 report from the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.

A recent report from Child Care Aware of America found that sending two children to full-time day care accounts for the biggest single household expense in the Northeast, Midwest and South. (The West escaped the list by having such exorbitant housing costs.) Full-time child care costs more than the annual median rent in every single state, according to the report.

The poorest of poor families receive a tiny bit of government assistance, but not much. Only 1 out of 6 children eligible for federal child care assistance actually received it in 2012, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.

Which isn’t all that surprising, given how severely The Child Care and Development Block Grant, the primary source of government-assisted child care subsidies, is underfunded. A recent analysis of the program found that total spending on child care assistance fell by $1.2 billion in 2012 to its lowest level since 2002.

And the vast majority of families, of course, receive no assistance to offset the costs of child care.

Chelsea could use her new status as a mother — and lifelong status as a Clinton — to agitate for change. Remember when Bill Clinton said he thanks God for his high taxes?

“Hillary and I and some of our friends in this audience who live in New York probably pay the highest aggregate tax rates in America,” he told a crowd at Georgetown University in May. “And I thank God every April 15 that I’m able to do it.”

This is Chelsea’s in.

She could say, “And I thank God some of my dad’s — and my — tax dollars are being used to make child care safer, healthier and more affordable for the 12.5 million children in this country who utilize it.”

She could gather a group of her young mom friends, throw in a few Washington insiders, add a lawmaker or two, and engage them on this national challenge. She could quote the 2013 Child Care Aware report, which says, “Ensuring this care is high-quality, affordable and available for families is crucial to our nation’s ability to produce and sustain an economically viable, competitively positioned workplace. The consequences of the lack of affordable, quality child care are often overlooked, the dots are rarely connected. This does not mean the problems they produce are not real and severe.”

Cheers would fill the auditorium. Bill and Hillary would beam with pride from the sidelines. Charlotte would look on adoringly from the arms of her supportive, loving father.

And the rest of us could take comfort in knowing that someday we won’t need the salaries of an investment banker and a six-figure special correspondent to afford day care.

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Congress Set to Pass Spending Bill with Investments for Early Learning

Tweet your thanks with this image!Wednesday, Congress will begin voting on a spending bill that includes investments in early childhood education.

Late Monday night, Senate Appropriations Chair Senator Barbara Mikulski and House Appropriations Chair Representative Hal Rogers announced an agreement on a spending bill that will fund the government through September 30, 2014. The spending bill consolidates the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government each year into one “Omnibus” spending bill.

The Omnibus spending bill would set spending for the rest of Fiscal Year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, which allows for some relief of the sequester, which had set spending at $967 billion for the year, but falls short of the $1.058 billion proposed by the Senate and the Administration.

Some of the highlights of the bill’s investment in children and families include:

  • $2.36 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is an increase of $154 million over the FY2013 levels.
  • $8.6 billion for Head Start, which is an increase of $1.025 billion over the FY2013 level.
  • $500 million from the above $8.6 million will be put towards expanding access to Early Head Start, including the development of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grants to help improve the quality in child care programs.
  • $250 million for Race to the Top- Preschool Development Grants to help states develop, enhance, or expand quality preschool programs for children 4 years old or older from low-income families.

Leaders of both parties in Congress and the Administration support this Omnibus spending bill, sending a clear signal there is a federal commitment to invest in early childhood education.

Tweet Thanks
Although there is still work to do, join us as we tweet thanks to those Congressional members who supported children and families through this budget process.

  • Senator Tom Harkin @SenatorHarkin  Chair of Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski @SenatorBarb  Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Congressman Hal Rogers @RepHalRogers  Chair of House Appropriations Committee
  • Senator Jerry Moran @JerryMoran  Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services  (Labor HHS) Subcommittee
  • Senator Richard Shelby @senShelby  Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Congresswoman Nita Lowey @nitalowey  Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee
  • Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro @rosadelauro  Ranking Member, House Appropriations LaborHHS Subcommittee
  • Congressman Jack Kingston @JackKingston  Chair, House Appropriations Committee
Tell them you appreciate their commitment to a quality early learning experience for young children and families. 
Get More
Bill details on the policy blog: Mikulski and Rogers Unveil Omnibus Spending Bill