Policymakers should explore a comprehensive system of guaranteed childcare that ensures children are safe, well-cared for, and ready for school. This will help ensure that mothers are able to return to work and sustain their employment. The existing program of federal childcare block grants has failed to reach most of the children in need. The government should instead focus on establishing federal-state partnerships that guarantee childcare for all families below 200 percent of the federal poverty level while respecting parental choice.
It should also revamp the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to provide progressive benefits to cover between 50 percent and 20 percent of related child care expenses and establish a Federal Early Care and Education Strategy Fund to boost state funding for underfunded programs such as Head Start and pre-kindergarten. In addition, the Early Learning Challenge Grant program—proposed by the Obama administration—would challenge states to develop effective, innovative models that promote high standards of quality and a focus on outcomes across early learning settings, and dedicate $10 billion over 10 years toward this effort.
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