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The House Day Care Waitlist Isn’t Getting Any Shorter

The benefits of early childhood education are clear. So why are more working families unable take advantage of it? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The benefits of early childhood education are clear. So why are more working families unable take advantage of it? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Good news for early childhood education.  

At Wednesday’s White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, President Barack Obama announced a $1 billion investment in education for children under five years old. The new funds will be split, with approximately $330 million coming from private investments from businesses and philanthropic contributions and the remaining roughly $700 million coming from releasing federal spending first appropriated in January 2014. But for many working families — including many who work on Capitol Hill — excellent early childhood opportunities already do exist, they just aren’t always accessible. Long wait lists, high demand and few available spots mean that those excellent opportunities are limited to only a handful of eligible families.  

And Congress knows this as well as any agency or private sector company. Look at the House of Representatives Daycare : considered exemplary in every way, including a better-than-market rate for congressional staff. Staffers who spoke to CQ Roll Call about the daycare experience were thrilled with the experience, once they had secured a spot. All said they knew families who wanted spots and weren’t able to get one.  

While Obama and the panelists touted the rewards of early childhood education investment — research shows high-quality preschool saves $7 for every $1 spent on increased wages both for children and their parents, and on reduced need for special education prison and social services — few talked about how they could increase the current offerings to better accommodate working families. That includes how to expand current preschool offerings that are only available for several hours a day. These part-time preschool programs are often out of reach for many working families who need full-time child care arrangements — including some congressional staffers.  

Private sector leaders touted their own success with expanding child care in the workforce, to an appreciative audience, which included Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Robert C. Scott, D-Va., and Jared Polis, D-Colo. The consensus seems clear on the benefits of early education for children, working parents — especially working mothers — and employers. Congress could take heart to learn from such private sector lessons, both in applying public policy on education, and in the benefits provided to their own hardworking employees.  

Carolyn Phenicie contributed to this report.

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