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Senators Murray And Hassan Push For New Child Care Assistance Bill In Senate

Bill would provide much-needed help for families struggling with rising child care costs

Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-3) introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act of 2017, which would more than double the number of families eligible for child care assistance. The bill comes on the heels of recent research from Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) showing child care has become unaffordable for working families in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The Child Care for Working Families Act would create a federal-state partnership to ensure that families making less than 150 percent of their state’s median income do not pay more than seven percent of their income on child care. The bill also supports access to high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income 3- and 4-year olds. Finally, the bill would support the child care workforce by significantly improving wages and training for teachers and caregivers.

“At a time when far too many working families are struggling, finding quality child care that doesn’t break the bank shouldn’t be another thing keeping parents up at night,” said Senator Murray. “As a former preschool teacher, I know what quality early learning and care can do for a child’s development, so I’m proud to introduce the Child Care for Working Families Act to address our child care crisis and support access to high-quality preschool so that all children are ready for kindergarten and beyond. This is not only the right to thing to for working families, but it’s a smart investment in our children, our future, and our economy.”

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined with Senators Schumer (D-NY), Franken (D-MN), and Casey (D-PA), along with Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in co-sponsoring the bill.

“The high cost of child care is preventing too many people across New Hampshire and America from being able to participate in our workforce and thrive economically,” Senator Hassan said. “We must do more to ensure that all children have access to affordable, high quality child care that will help families make ends meet and prepare our young ones for their futures. The Child Care for Working Families Act takes critical steps to support hard-working families and invest in our children, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this important legislation.”

“One month of child care costs more than one month of rent or a mortgage payment for many working families,” said Lynette Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America. “This bill would help families for whom quality child care is now an out-of-reach luxury. We urge Congress to pass this bill and provide a critical, long-term investment in the future of America. We must ensure better outcomes for children, a stronger workforce and families that are more resilient. Every child, in every family, deserves high-quality care.”

The Child Care for Working Families Bill would:

  • Establish a new federal-state partnership to provide high-quality, affordable child care from birth through age 13.
  • More than double the number of children eligible for child care assistance, and ensure all those who are eligible have the ability to enroll their child in a quality program.
  • Provide incentives and funding for states to create high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income 3- and 4-year olds during the school day, while providing a higher matching rate for programs for infants and toddlers, who are often harder and more expensive to care for.
  • Increase workforce training and compensation, including by ensuring that all child care workers are paid a living wage and early childhood educators are provided parity with elementary school teachers with similar credentials and experience.
  • Improve care in a variety of settings, including addressing the needs of family, friend, and neighbor care and care during non-traditional hours to help meet the needs of working families.
  • Build more inclusive, high-quality child care providers for children with disabilities, and infants and toddlers with disabilities, including by increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Help all Head Start programs meet the new expanded duration requirements and provide full-day, full-year programming

More than 11 million children under the age of five are in some form of child care in the United States. As the nation’s leading voice for child care, CCAoA is comprised of 125,000 online advocates from across the country and more than 32,000 members. Over 250 parents have shared their stories with lawmakers through our Family Advocacy Summit and Day on The Hill. For child care providers, we offer trainings on emergency preparedness as well as technical assistance that emphasize health, nutrition and obesity prevention and more.

For 30 years, CCAoA has been the leading voice for quality, affordable child care in the United States. While CCAoA continues to pursue our vision of the future in which every family in the United States has access to a high quality and affordable child care system, the sharing of accurate and updated information remains critical.

Currently the bill has the support of over 100 organizations including: AFSCME, the SEIU, Mom’s Rising, and the National Association of Elementary School Principles.


Text of the Child Care for Working Families Act can be found HERE.
A fact sheet on the Child Care for Working Families Act can be found HERE.

Granite State Rumblings: Making The Case for Expanding Head Start Programs 

Image by U.S. Department of Education

Image by U.S. Department of Education


Over the past few months I have been in at least three different venues across the state where the topic of Head

Start has come up. In each of those conversations at least one person has said that Head Start does not work and Congress should do away with it.  They did not say we should fix what they perceive to be wrong with Head Start, just do away with it.

I have to admit I left those places shaking my head and wondering if the people who feel so strongly about doing away with Head Start have spent time in the classrooms with the children, teachers, and parents. If they had they would have seen that every day Head Start programs help children to catch up cognitively, socially, and emotionally with their peers who are higher up on the economic ladder, encourages and celebrates parents as their child’s first teachers, help pregnant women receive the services they need in order to give birth to healthy babies, and puts smiles on the faces and hope in the hearts of children and their families.

Young children living in poverty are more likely to face challenges that can negatively impact their development and create disparities in their cognitive and social abilities well before they enter Head Start or pre-school programs at age 4. In an effort to ensure that all young children have the same opportunities to succeed in school and life, the federal Early Head Start program was created to support the healthy development of low-income infants, toddlers, and pregnant women.

Research shows that Early Head Start makes a positive difference in areas associated with children’s success in school, family self-sufficiency, and parental support of child development, but federal funds are reaching fewer than 4% of eligible children and families. Children who participated in Early Head Start had significantly larger vocabularies and scored higher on standardized measures of cognitive development than children in a control group who did not participate in Early Head Start. Additionally, Early Head Start children and parents had more positive interactions, and these parents provided more support for learning than did those in a control group. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Making a Difference in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers and Their Families).

In addition to early learning opportunities, Head Start and Early Head Start’s comprehensive early childhood development programs provide children and families with access to a range of services such as health screenings, referrals and follow-up support, parenting resources, and social services. Programs emphasize the importance of parental involvement and staff work to cultivate parents’ abilities as their children’s first teachers.

So you may ask, if Head Start and Early Head Start provides all of this for children and their families, why do some people want to get rid of it? 

The answer to that may come down to this word: fadeout.

Our friends at The First Five Years Fund have this to say about the Head Start Fadeout Myth.

Head Start Fadeout, a common argument against investing in early childhood education, is based on a highly selective read of research findings found in Head Start evaluations and, to a lesser extent, the Perry Preschool project.

Critics argue that gains made through early childhood education disappear by the third grade. They acknowledge that disadvantaged children who received early education arrive at kindergarten ahead of peers who did not, but use third grade evaluations to claim there is no lasting effect to justify the investment.

A measurement of progress in the third grade is not a measurement of life outcomes. It’s simply a snapshot in time—and an incomplete one at that.

Research from many studies—including those cited by fadeout critics—overwhelmingly show that the benefits of early childhood education become more evident throughout schooling and adult life. There is no fadeout; there is constant, steady movement into upward mobility.

Disadvantaged children who receive quality early childhood education are more likely to persist in school, enjoy better career outcomes, higher wages and healthier lifestyles. These findings can be found in analysis of the Perry Preschool Project and Abecedarian in the United States, as well as the British Cohort Study in Great Britain, all of which are randomized control studies with longitudinal data that spans upwards of 35 years.

We’ll take 35 years of evidence over three any time.

The fadeout myth comes from an incomplete read of data and a narrow view of what constitutes success.

For example, the Perry Preschool Project has been criticized for not permanently increasing IQ among the treatment group. IQ gains that are evident at kindergarten among the treatment group tend to equalize with the control group during schooling years.

However, IQ is not the only measure of success in an individual. Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman found that the social and emotional skills learned through early childhood education were the major drivers of success in school, career and life among the Perry treatment group, who far outperform the control group in adult outcomes.

Similarly, the 2012 National Head Start Impact Study shows achievement among the treatment group equalizing with the control group by third grade. In this case, the Impact Study was flawed because many in the control group were allowed to attend other preschool programs, including Head Start programs in other locations. We may be seeing parity here because we’re comparing children with similar experiences.

Heckman says that using the Head Start Impact Study to claim that early childhood education is ineffective is “a generalized conclusion that is neither thoughtful nor accurate.” (Read more of his analysis here.) Heckman also finds that “Head Start graduates tend to be more persistent in their education, more inclined to healthy behaviors, and less inclined to be involved in criminal activity.”

“Head Start is by no means perfect, but that should not rule out efforts to improve the program’s quality and surround it with other high-quality birth-to-five programs that will deliver better outcomes for children, families and society.” – James Heckman


In May of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson announced Project Head Start. Head Start was part of Johnson’s War on Poverty, which embodied a basic belief that education was the solution to poverty.

It began as an 8 week demonstration project.

In 1977, under the Carter administration, Head Start began bilingual and bicultural programs in about 21 states. Eighteen years later, in1995 under the Clinton administration, the first Early Head Start grants were given to provide high quality child development and family services to income eligible pregnant women and families of very young children.

Head Start was most recently reauthorized again in 2007, under the George W. Bush administration, with several provisions to strengthen Head Start quality.  The statute also included a provision that regulations be promulgated to move programs from an indefinite project period to a five-year grant cycle. In 2009, under the Obama administration, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act added more than 64,000 slots for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

Sequestration had a major impact on Head Start in 2013. The Office of Head Start reported that approximately 57,000 children were cut from Head Start programs nationwide because of sequestration. In addition to turning away those 57,000 children, Head Start programs were forced to

  • Cut 1.3 million days of service
  • Provide 18,000 fewer hours of service through shortened school days
  • Terminate or reduce salaries of 18,000 employees

In January of 2014 President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. This Act included $8,598,095,000 for programs under the Head Start Act, representing an increase of approximately $1.025 billion over the fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding level.

The approximately $1.025 billion increase restored the 5.27 percent reduction from sequestration and provided all grantees with a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The FY 2014 funding level also included $500 million for expansion through the Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership to support communities in expanding high-quality early learning and development opportunities for infants and toddlers.

State funding for Head Start was eliminated by the NH Legislature in the 2010.

In recent years, Head Start has served as a successful, comprehensive model for states in developing high quality pre-kindergarten systems. Additionally, Head Start’s unique shared governance structure provides a model to promote meaningful partnerships with families. Each program has a Policy Council that includes parents of children in the program and makes policy decisions together with staff.

Most children in New Hampshire Head Start programs attend 5 days a week for part of the day. Children and families receive an array of comprehensive supports and services. The top two services families receive are parenting and health education.

Pregnant women also receive a variety of supports and services. Included are coordination of prenatal and postpartum health care, dental and mental health services and follow up (substance abuse prevention and treatment), prenatal education on fetal development, information on the benefits of breastfeeding, emergency/crisis intervention, and others.

In New Hampshire, Head Start grew from 1,267 enrolled children in 1997 to more than 2,000 children (cumulative) enrolled today. New Hampshire is funded to serve 1,618 children and their families at any given time, but actual enrollment can be higher. However, far too many eligible children are not served due to lack of funding:

  • Nationally, it is estimated that Head Start serves less than 43% of eligible children and their families, and Early Head Start serves less than 4% of eligible infants and toddlers. 
  • New Hampshire Head Start serves only about 18% of eligible children aged birth to five years and their families.

Here is some more NH specific information from the 2013-2014 Program Information Report (PIR):

  • Cumulative Enrollment of Children by Age – Total 2,027    
    • Less than 1 Year Old – 139
    • 1 Year Old – 161
    • 2 Years Old – 185
    • 3 Years Old – 693
    • 4 Years Old – 849
  • Total Classes Operated – 87
  • Homeless Children Served – 175
  • Foster Care Children Served – 38
  • Child Welfare Agency Referral Children Served – 52
  • Number of Programs Providing Transportation – 2
  • Children with Health Insurance (at end of enrollment year) – 1,995
  • Children without Health Insurance (at end of enrollment year) – 32
  • Total Number of Families – 1,868
    • Two Parent Families – 795
    • Single Parent Families – 1,073

Recent research has shown what the Head Start community has long observed: Head Start works! Not only does it promote gains in children’s learning and development, Head Start also is associated with improved children’s health, promotes family self-sufficiency, and is cost effective.

Has Head Start had an impact on your life?  We would love to hear your story to share with others.

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