Senate Democrats may include President Joe Biden’s $200 billion proposal for universal pre-Kindergarten in their $3.5 trillion spending bill, the details of which have yet to be released, Politico reports.
Although Democrats have yet to fully release the text of the bill, Politico notes that they will have to consider how many seats are needed in pre-K classes to provide for universal access, with advocates for pre-K pushing legislators to study already existing programs for guidance.
The National Institute for Early Education Research, in its annual "State of Preschool" report, found that at least 5 million more seats would be required for universal preschool in the United States, with about $91 billion in annual funding for all 3- and 4-year-olds to have access to "high-quality, full-day preschool."
The American Families Plan that Biden unveiled in April includes $200 billion for universal pre-K, along with $225 billion for child care that would make care more affordable for many families and free to low-income families.
"We estimate hundreds of thousands of new children will benefit ... in the first year, and even more children will start to immediately benefit from increased quality and access," a White House official told Politico, "by providing funds to states to build on their existing child care systems in a way that is tailored to the needs of communities in the state and provides parents with options to send children to the setting of their choice."
Two congressional Democrats, Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, have already introduced a bill similar to Biden’s plan. Murray said on Monday that although Biden’s plan would provide funding for new child care centers and incentives for hiring, a lot of families would not see any immediate improvement in their situation.
"That's not going to happen in three days. First we have to build the capacity and get the workers, and then we will have the ability then to move on," said Murray, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
"I've visited a couple of child care facilities in the last few weeks, and all of them have said that they could expand if they had more funds; they have the room," added Scott, who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee. "They just need to be able to hire the teachers and [there are] plenty of people needing the service."
Murray and Scott’s proposal, the Child Care for Working Families Act which they reintroduced last April, would "establish a child care and early learning infrastructure that ensures working families can find and afford the child care they need to succeed in the workforce and children can get the early education they need to thrive. This legislation would make child care affordable for working families, expand access to preschool programs for 3- and 4-year olds, improve the quality of care for all children, and increase compensation and provide training for child care workers."
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