This blog was written by Senator Patty Murray as part of Child Care NOW’s guest blog series.
As a mom and former preschool teacher, I understand how critical high-quality early learning can be for our children. In fact, fighting for early childhood education is how I got my start in public service. When my kids were very young, I found out that their preschool program was the target of state budget cuts and was going to be shut down. But I thought if the state legislature simply heard just how great this program was, they’d have to keep it. So I packed up my kids and drove over 100 miles from Seattle to Olympia to meet my state legislators for the first time—and make the case why this program was worth saving.
As I was speaking to a state legislator, he told me I couldn’t make a difference because I was “just a mom in tennis shoes.” I was a mom in tennis shoes, but I knew that shouldn’t stop me from making a difference. So I went home and I called my friends, who called their friends, and soon I had a list of 13,000 parents who knew just how special this preschool program was. And though it wasn’t easy, we made our voices heard by calling, writing and showing up—and finally, the state legislature reinstated the program.
Later, I went on to teach at that preschool. It taught me so many things, including how a good preschool education can open the doors of opportunity for the next generation by preparing them for kindergarten and beyond. But unfortunately too many families today don’t have access to the high-quality preschool or child care I had when my kids were young—and for some parents, that means being forced to pay more than they can afford, or even quit their job.
That is why last month I introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act along with Representative Bobby Scott. This comprehensive early learning and child care bill will ensure no family under 150% of their state’s median income would pay more than 7% of their income on child care. And our plan would increase access to high-quality preschool for low-income and middle class three and four-year-olds. Finally, the Child Care for Working Families Act would also support the hardworking women and men who take care of our children, by investing in better pay and training.
The bill will be especially important for families with infants and toddlers who face the highest costs for child care and the greatest challenge finding any care, much less high-quality care. So under our plan, the federal government would provide even more funding to child care centers that offer care for infants and toddlers—making it easier for families to access affordable, high-quality care.
At a time when too many families are struggling to pay their doctor’s bills, keep a roof over their families’ heads, and save for college, affording high-quality child care shouldn’t be another thing keeping parents up at night. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the Child Care for Working Families Act. It’s not just the right thing to do for working families—it’s a smart investment in our children, our future, and our economy.