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Idea of the Day: Working Mothers Need Child Care and Preschool

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In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made a historic pledge to provide universal, high-quality pre-K education to our nation’s children. He chose to make this one of his administration’s priorities with good reason: Early childhood education has myriad benefits, including better, more equitable long-term outcomes for children of divergent economic backgrounds. Moreover, investments in these programs help cultivate a future workforce, secure long-term economic competitiveness, and develop our nation’s future leaders. Universal high-quality pre-K and child care would also throw a much-needed raft to families across America that are struggling to stay afloat while footing costly child care bills, missing work to provide care, or sending their children—our nation’s future innovators and workforce—to low-quality care centers.

In addition to the positive long-term impacts that high-quality preschool and child care have on children and the economy, these programs provide important benefits to working parents, especially working mothers. The prohibitively high costs of private child care and the dearth of quality, accessible public providers means that parents are often left to choose between the lesser of two evils: low-quality care or forgoing needed pay to stay at home and care for a child themselves.

In response to this urgent problem, President Obama has proposed to allocate $1.4 billion in 2014 to expand public child care services, $15 billion over the next decade to expand state home-visitation programs to America’s most vulnerable families, and $75 billion over the next decade to invest in expanding access to quality preschool. This funding would help millions of parents, especially mothers, across America better balance their work and caregiving responsibilities without putting their children’s well-being or their own jobs at risk.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here