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New Child Care Roadmap Shows States Are Transforming Child Care While Advocating for New Federal Investments

Since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, states have relied on critical federal relief funds to stabilize the child care field and even improve the system, but most of those funds have expired. This funding cliff will prolong the pain felt in households and communities. By now, we’ve all read devastating stories about programs closing, early childhood educators struggling to make ends meet, and families struggling to find affordable, accessible, and quality care. 

But there’s also another part of this story. The pandemic gave state leaders the opportunity to reimagine how child care policy should work in America – and the federal relief funds gave them the resources to enact bolder reforms. Some states dedicated their own resources to sustain or expand on these reforms, while others implemented low-cost strategies that still move child care systems toward a more ambitious and equitable future. 

In September 2020, the Alliance for Early Success, with contributions from many of our allies, released a policy roadmap that describes what states need to do to transform our child care system. It turns out that the ideas included in that report were not pipe dreams; many states put them into action. In our new report, Child Care Policy Roadmap 2023, we highlight policies enacted in states – red, blue, and purple – that serve as building blocks for a transformative child care system.

For example, states are:

    • Dedicating funding exclusively for compensation and benefits for early childhood educators.
    • Putting educators and providers in the driver’s seat to design policy proposals.
    • Mitigating undue burdens on family child care providers to preserve and expand a critical part of the child care sector.
    • Increasing subsidy rates to reflect the cost of quality.
    • Paying providers prospectively by enrollment and using equity factors to allocate funding.
    • Expanding subsidy eligibility significantly to approach universal coverage.
    • Eliminating or capping co-payments so more families can afford care.
    • Expanding safety net programs, like income supports, paid leave, and tax credits, so more early childhood educators and families have more economic security.
    • Generating new, sustainable, dedicated funding streams for child care.

At the height of the pandemic, we said that when we come out on the other side of this crisis, we cannot return to how we fund and provide child care before COVID. We now need to remember that sentiment. Success is not stabilizing the field or returning to the pre-pandemic status quo; it’s staying the course for bold reforms. Yes, we need to continue to advocate for new federal investments. At the same time, states can still act! As state advocates, elected officials, and policymakers look to the 2024 legislative session and beyond, we should take inspiration from the actions states have taken since the onset of the pandemic and build the political will to create and fund child care systems that help all providers, educators, families, and children thrive.

 

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