Menendez Visits Irvington Preschool to Detail Childcare, Early Education for All Plan

Menendez Visits Irvington Preschool to Detail Childcare, Early Education for All Plan

Child Care for Working Families Act would ensure high-quality, affordable childcare, preschool for working families

IRVINGTON, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today visited Augusta Pre-School Academy in Irvington to lay out bold legislation to ensure every American child, regardless of their family’s income or where they live, has access to high-quality, affordable childcare and early education, while also creating thousands of jobs and greater financial flexibility for families to help stimulate the economy.  The Senator was joined by Mayor Tony Vauss, Irvington school officials, students and parents.

The Child Care for Working Families Act, also cosponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, is a comprehensive bill that provides direct assistance to working, middle-class families and those living paycheck to paycheck to ensure affordable, high-quality early education and childcare for their children.  It would also jumpstart the economy by creating 770,000 new childcare jobs and allowing 1.6 million parents, primarily mothers, go back to work, while lifting one million families out of poverty.

“We know that four out of ten children growing up in low-income families enter kindergarten underprepared compared to their wealthier counterparts.  Expanding access to quality early learning programs will help level the playing field, especially for children of color, when it’s time to go to school,” said Sen. Menendez.  “That’s what the Child Care for Working Families Act is all about, investing in real opportunity for America’s moms and dads to give their kids a better life.”

The Child Care for Working Families Act would provide free early education and childcare for a family of four earning less than $85,000, 75% of New Jersey’s median income, with a sliding scale to ensure no family earning up to 150%, or $170,000, pays more than 7% of their income towards childcare.  It would also support universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all three- and four-year olds, and improve compensation and training for childcare workers to ensure that our nation’s teachers and caregivers, as well as the children they are caring for, have the support they need to thrive.

Irvington Public Schools offers township residents free pre-K for three- and four-year-olds.  Several studies have found children with access to pre-K perform better in school

Child Care for Working Families Press Conference

“In the Irvington Public Schools, we foster the belief that the road to college begins in preschool,” said Dr. Neely Hackett, Superintendent of Schools.  “The Child Care for Working Families Act will allow earlier access to this road through high-quality affordable childcare.”

Nationally, three in four children under 13—nearly 1.1 million in New Jersey—would be income-eligible for assistance, and a typical family would pay no more than $45—$44 in New Jersey—a week for childcare, according to a study on the impact of the Child Care for Working Families Act by the Center for American Progress.  The bill also would give most full-time childcare workers a raise to a livable wage; in New Jersey, 81% or over 10,000 full-time childcare workers earn less than a living wage.

According to a Child Care Aware of America survey, New Jerseyans spent an average $11,760 in 2017 on toddler care for a single child, 57% of a family’s household income living at the poverty level, 38% for those living at 150% of the poverty level.  For four-year-olds, the average cost for New Jersey families was $10,597, more than half the income for those living at the poverty level and more than a third for those earning 150% of the poverty level.  Those average annual costs balloon to $12,679 for infant care, and rise significantly across the board for families with multiple children.

The federal government currently provides grants to states to subsidize the cost of high-quality childcare for low-income families through certificates that parents can use at qualifying childcare providers, but the Child Care for Working Families Act would vastly expand this program by investing billions of dollars more into Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) and making this funding mandatory to guarantee each child has access to high-quality, affordable childcare and early education.

Additionally, the bill would:

  • Provide for cost-sharing between the Federal government and States to provide high-quality, affordable childcare from birth through age 13.
  • More than double the number of children eligible for childcare assistance, and ensure all those who are eligible have the ability to enroll their child in a quality program.
  • Provide incentives and funding for states to create high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income 3- and 4-year olds during the school day, while providing a higher matching rate for programs for infants and toddlers, for whom are often harder and more expensive to care.
  • Increase workforce training and compensation by ensuring that all childcare workers are paid at least a living wage commensurate with elementary school teachers, if they have similar credentials and experience.
  • Improve care in a variety of settings, including addressing the needs of family, friend, and neighbor care, and pre- and afterschool care to help meet the needs of working families.
  • Build more inclusive, high-quality childcare providers for children with disabilities, and infants and toddlers with disabilities, including by increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Help all Head Start programs meet the new expanded duration requirements and provide full day, full-year programming.

Sen. Menendez has consistently supported funding early childhood education programs.  He supported an historic increase in funding levels for CCDBG in FY18, and fought to maintain and grow that investment in FY19. He aslo recently called for the highest possible funding for CCDBG, Head Start, Preschool Development Block Grants and early intervention services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for FY20. 

The Child Care for Working Families Act was introduced with 35 Senate cosponsors, which include Sens. Menendez and Booker, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jackie Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

Companion legislation was introduced with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.-03), chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-Northern Mariana Islands), chair of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, with 98 cosponsors.