Early education bill sails through Senate

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After nearly two decades of delay, a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant stormed through the Senate on March 13 with a landslide 96-2 vote.

CCDBG helps low-income parents pay for child care so they can work or pursue an education, offering a vital lifeline and a path to the middle class for millions. AFT President Randi Weingarten hailed the decisive Senate action as a "rare showing of bipartisanship" on Capitol Hill. She urged the House of Representatives to follow suit and immediately pass the bill.

"Having access to affordable child care is critical for working families, and ensuring high-quality early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make to prepare a child for success in school and life," Weingarten said. "This bill expands that promise for low-income families who need it the most, focuses on the health and safety of children, provides online tools for families seeking child care, raises the quality of care and strengthens the child care workforce."

Weingarten contacted senators before the vote and urged their support for the bill. In the nearly two decades since CCDBG was last reauthorized, early childhood education and child care programs have been transformed by research on child development, Weingarten emphasized, and "the bill reflects the advancement of this knowledge and will truly modernize the program."

The Senate bill (S. 1086) gives parents more confidence that their children will be well cared for while they are at work or school. The bill increases inspections and ensures that providers obtain background checks and training before they care for children. And the legislation "acknowledges that a component of a high-quality child care program includes having a workforce that is well-prepared and well-trained," Weingarten stressed, by requiring states to dedicate more funding for training, professional development and the advancement of the child care workforce. "This requirement will not only benefit teachers and staff working in child care, but will also have lasting, positive effects for the children in their care and those children's families." [Mike Rose, Jennifer Scully, AFT press release]

March 14, 2014