On Thursday, September 9, 2021, the House Education and Labor Committee began their work on that Committee’s reconciliation instruction. A key part of their effort is the expansion of child care, pre-kindergarten, and Head Start.
The Committee draft starts out with child care funding that would be provided on a sliding scale. Families making less than 75 percent of a state’s median income would have the cost of child care (for children under 13 years) covered. Families making 200 percent of a state’s average income would have child care costs capped at 7 percent of their income. The Committee also intends to expand pre-K to all 3- and 4-year-olds. How fast the provisions can be phased in and how these figures will be adjusted as the process moves forward must be worked out. There will also be provisions to improve child care facilities and raise salary levels for child care teachers more in parity with school teachers. Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate Help Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) have been major advocates and sponsors of child care expansion legislation. An amendment was offered in Committee to expand on the Chairman’s draft but it is unclear how far that will go in the process.
As part of this effort, Head Start is also greatly strengthened. Key provisions that CWLA supported through a Head Start coalition effort include: $15 billion to increase compensation for the Head Start workforce over six years; protection for Head Start by mandating full enrollment for Head Start, in which state pre-K systems must look to fill all Head Start slots first; incentivizing states to offer a more robust, comprehensive pre-K option reflective of Head Start to families screened for such services; the possibility of local grants to Head Start if state governments opt-out of participating in the pre-K program; and requirements of state-level child care quality to be held to Head Start Program Performance Standards.
As with all parts of the reconciliation, the Committees will be carefully balancing competing needs. For the Education and Labor Committee, those competing needs include college education and K-12 priorities.