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How Hillary Clinton Wants to Change Child Care in America

By Lillian Mongeau — May 23, 2016 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the Early Years blog

Hillary Clinton has been a champion of improving children’s prospects though health and education initiatives since her years in law school. She sees affordable, high-quality care as a right for children and a necessity for working parents, especially mothers. And in her campaign for the White House, the Democratic presidential candidate has made early childhood an important theme in her discussions of education policy.

Clinton has proposed doubling the country’s investment in Early Head Start, a federal program for infant and toddler care and education. Like President Barack Obama, she wants to make preschool for 4-year-olds universal. And she has long championed 12 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers upon the birth of a child or a prolonged illness in the family. (Right now, the Family Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave.)

On May 10, while campaigning in Kentucky, Clinton doubled down on her platform. She committed to increasing child -subsidies and tax credits so that no family spends more than 10 percent of their income on child care. A briefing on Clinton’s campaign site explains her reasoning:

...while families across America are stretched by skyrocketing costs, child care has become more important than ever before—both as a critical work support for the changing structure of American families and as an essential component of a child’s early development.

Clinton also proposed a program that would raise the income and qualifications of America’s early-childhood workforce, which is often underpaid and undertrained. She would increase home-visiting services to 2 million parents and children, give $1,500 scholarships to student parents to help cover child-care costs, and increase child-care access on college campuses to serve an additional 250,000 children.

How much of Clinton’s platform would become reality were she to assume the presidency is an open question. Still, it is one of the most comprehensive plans a candidate has put forth and has to be tempting to the Millennial Democrats (especially the female ones) who have broken largely for Senator Bernie Sanders so far in his quest for the Democratic nomination.

For the record, Sanders also supports 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Early education is addressed under the women’s rights section of his website, which states: “Sen. Sanders is working on a plan to make high-quality childcare and Pre-K available to every American, regardless of income.”

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has said little about education generally, and I’ve heard nothing specifically about child care.

If she does win, Clinton would have an uphill battle on several fronts, but it seems likely, given her lifelong commitment, that she would fight particularly hard on this one. So, could she transform child care as we know it? Maybe. But it would take an act of Congress, and those have not been easy to come by.

P.S. For more on Clinton’s early childhood platform, check out Abbie Lierberman’s summary on EdCentral.

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