What will it take to build a sustainable early care and education system in the United States?
That was the question I posed to leaders from the field who came together on March 8 — coincidentally, International Women’s Day — to weigh in on the issue, sharing solutions they’re seeing that seem promising, innovative and scalable. The setting for our conversation was a featured panel at the SXSW EDU Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas.
The most obvious answer is federal investment and lots of it — far more than is available in the U.S. today.
Significant federal investment that values the first five years of life as much as the next 13 would go a long way toward solving the crisis that exists in the early care and education sector today. But after a close call last year, when child care relief — at one point central to President Biden’s signature legislation — was removed altogether ahead of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the window of opportunity to address this issue in the legislative branch has effectively closed. With split chambers in Congress, this avenue is no longer politically feasible, and it may not be for some time.
So, what is possible? In the absence of public investment and system-wide change, what are the next-best options — the viable alternatives?
The full discussion is available to watch below. For audio only, listen here.
Michelle Kang, CEO of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, noted that employer-sponsored child care has been getting “renewed focus” since the pandemic began and, most especially, in recent weeks.