Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. president, just unveiled her plan to bring universal, affordable, reliable childcare to the nation–if she’s elected.
“My plan will guarantee high-quality childcare and early education for every child in America from birth to school age,” Warren wrote in an essay on Medium. “It will be free for millions of American families, and affordable for everyone. This is the kind of big, structural change we need to produce an economy that works for everyone.”
Under Warren’s proposal, the federal government would partner with local governments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and other groups that meet national standards to create a network of options for childcare, including day care centers, preschools, and even in-home childcare. The options would be available to every family at different prices depending on income.
HuffPost reports the initiative will likely require approximately $700 billion in new federal spending over 10 years, which Warren says will be paid for in part through her proposed wealth tax. The United States could make up for the cost by boosting the number of mothers in the workforce, and because investing in early childhood education tends to to grow the economy. As Warren wrote, “It’s great for parents, for kids, and for the economy.”
Under Warren’s plan, families wouldn’t have to spend more than 7% of their household income on childcare, no matter how many kids they have. Families with incomes that make less than 200% of the federal poverty line, which is roughly $50,000 a year for a family of four, would pay nothing. The 7% figure is what the Department of Health and Human Services uses to officially define “affordable” childcare.
It almost happened before–twice
Warren’s childcare plan is the latest push by Democratic candidates to focus on helping young children and working parents. Last week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination, reintroduced her bill in the Senate that would create a national paid family leave program, which Warren and a number of other presidential candidates co-sponsored.
While ideas like paid family leave and affordable childcare sound revolutionary, the U.S. has almost enacted universal childcare twice before. As my colleague Kathleen Davis wrote, “Since the 1940s, the U.S. has done next to nothing to care for children under 4.” This new wave of Democratic candidates could change that.
Warren says her program would be optional for families to use, but claims that an independent analysis estimated that 12 million children would participate in one of the new options. Many working parents would undoubtedly be thrilled to take part, as daycare can cost more than college tuition in most U.S. states and is basically an unaffordable nightmare.
Considering the fact that, according to the Department of Labor, 57% of women work (a percentage nearly equal to men), and almost 70% of women with children under 18 work outside the home, affordable childcare is an issue that should resonate with a large group of voters.