Dive Brief:

  • A New America analysis released Thursday focuses on the $140 billion per year experts say would shift the bulk of the cost of early learning programs from families to public and private sources, envisioning a financing system in which families pay roughly 40% of the costs of programs for children from birth to age 5 and public funding covers about $82 billion — about $53 billion more than the current level from both state and federal sources. Programs would be free for low-income families, as many are now. 
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — a proposed economic stimulus package passed by the Senate late Wednesday night — includes $3.5 billion in federal funds to help child care programs remain in business during closures so those on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis can keep working. The stimulus bill also includes $750 million for Head Start to cover staffing and operational costs and provide summer learning opportunities.
  • With many schools now providing child care for healthcare employees, and almost 90% of providers saying their centers can’t survive a closure for very long, the pandemic has reinforced the vital role early learning programs play in society, as well as the instability of a market that depends largely on reimbursements for subsidized care based on attendance and parents’ ability to pay.

Dive Insight:

The report comes just two weeks after a national task force released a broad plan for redefining the work and preparation programs for those working in the early childhood education field. Leaders of the effort recommend early educators working in publicly funded programs have the same education levels and earn the same salaries as teachers in the early grades.

But authors of the New America report note the challenges to reaching “pay parity” include “lower levels of unionization among early educators and a lack of protected funding sources dedicated to [early-childhood education].”

“The current coronavirus crisis shines a bright light on just how underfunded early care and education is in our country,” said Laura Bornfreund, director of early and elementary education policy at New America. In addition to those providers saying they need public funds to remain open during stay-at-home orders, “even more are expecting to lose income due to the inability of families to continue paying for care,” she said.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, researchers at Yale University and Child Care Aware of America — a national organization for child resource and referral agencies — released a tool that maps the current demand for child care “in critical sectors” and estimates the number of qualified employees available to provide care. That data shows almost 46 million children from birth through age 11 need care while their parents are working in health care or other essential industries.

“While some jobs may be done remotely, it is still very difficult to work from home while caring for a small child,” the researchers write. 

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