Senate HELP Committee examines the high costs of child care for families across the nation and proposals to improve child care programs as parents go back to work
Today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing titled, “Child Care and Preschool: Cutting Costs for Working Families.”
In his opening statement, Ranking Member Burr (R-NC) underscored the Committee’s bipartisan record of working together on child care and urged the Committee to instead consider reauthorizing existing, successful child care programs, such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start.
Today’s hearing follows a roundtable Senator Burr led late last year with his colleagues and child care providers from across the nation to hear first-hand how Democrats’ child care and preschool proposals would devastate existing child care programs, dramatically increase the costs for families, and limit parental choice.
Senator Burr’s prepared opening statement:
“Good morning. I want to thank the witnesses for testifying here today.
“I also want to thank every child care provider across the country for their dedication to children and parents over the last two years.
“As I’ve said many times before, child care was the one education sector that never abandoned working parents and their children during COVID. Unlike public schools, child care understood that for parents to work, they needed to be open. So again, thank you all.
“Forty-seven weeks ago, this Committee had a productive bipartisan hearing on child care.
“In fact, every other hearing this Committee has ever held on child care has been bipartisan, until today.
“Today we abandon the precedent of decades of bipartisan hearings and markups of crucial legislation such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start, for the Committee’s first partisan child care hearing on a terrible partisan bill.
“In the 329 days since our last bipartisan child care hearing, rather than seeking a bipartisan solution, some have tried to impose their progressive vision, which would destroy child care as we know it.
“Thankfully, that plan has gone nowhere as folks read past the one-pager of talking points and discovered in hundreds of pages of legislative text a ‘bait and switch on our kids’ future,’ as one Minnesota state education chair called it.
“With no plan for paying for two new entitlements, the proposal hides the long-term costs by baiting states with ‘free money’ in the first two or three years, then socking states with ever increasing costs just as the federal spigot cuts off.
“Worse, all the promises to make child care affordable under this partisan plan are nothing but empty promises to the 35 to 40 percent of kids living in states that CBO estimated would refuse to participate in these new child care and pre-k programs because of the unaffordable costs mandated from Washington.
“And what about families that have to balance their own budgets? Even some progressive analysts estimate this partisan proposal will raise child care costs by $13,000-a-year on middle class families.
“Finally, faith-based providers have made it very clear that this proposal would end the 30-year bipartisan agreement allowing religious providers to participate without compromising their religious mission, causing immediate harm to the 53 percent of parents who choose to use a faith-based provider for their child care.
“With all these concerns raised, we have two paths before us.
“Path one: you can continue to go it alone. Some will try to bully their own side into submission, yell at states that say they won’t participate, and pretend that religious providers are wrong about their inability to participate in this poorly designed proposal.
“Or path two. The path our voters sent us all here to take: come to the table in a bipartisan way as is the history of this Committee and seek common ground.
“I still believe it’s possible to return to a bipartisan consensus on child care.
“Just over six years ago I worked with Barbara Mikulski on the last CCDBG reauthorization. Her charge to us was simple: ‘Let's see what we can get done…Where can we find common ground? Where can we find that sensible center? How can we move things forward on a bipartisan basis where we add value to our country but don't add to our debt?’
“That bill passed 88-1 in the Senate and by voice vote in the Republican-led House.
“When everyone agrees that there is a shortage of affordable, quality child care, it is my belief that CCDBG is that sensible center from which to start a bipartisan discussion.
“CCDBG is the right platform because it proved itself exactly the right architecture for delivering federal child care assistance during COVID.
“With the extra funding, States were able to expand access to child care for essential workers, reduce parent co-pays, increase provider reimbursement rates to cover fixed and operational expenses, reimburse providers based on enrollment versus attendance to stabilize provider cash flow, and provide wage supplements and bonuses to raise child care staff wages and incentivize staff to stay.
“Additionally, when public schools shuttered their doors and turned kitchen tables and a laptop into classrooms, countless essential workers turned to their local child care providers who welcomed school-age children, providing them a safe place while mom or dad worked.
“If you have a program with 30 plus years of bipartisan support and a program that has shown it can not only withstand but excel during a pandemic, CCDBG seems a remarkable foundation from which to build.
“So, I’m offering an olive branch to my colleagues today, to encourage them to take the bipartisan path.
“This morning, Senator Tim Scott is leading our charge to find common ground. Along with several colleagues, we are introducing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act Reauthorization of 2022.
“In crafting this legislation, we have sought to build on the bipartisan CCDBG program which has been assisting American working families with their child care for the last 30 years and that has allowed parents maximum choice in their child care providers, including:
· “Providing greater support to help working families afford child care, through increased eligibility and lower parent copays, so that more families can get the help they need to afford child care;
· “Improving reimbursement rates for child care providers to cover fixed costs, operating expenses, and staff salaries and benefits necessary to recruit, train, and retain qualified staff, so that we can make child care more affordable and pay child care workers more;
· “Providing greater support for child care teachers through financial assistance in the attainment of post-secondary credentials and degrees and financial assistance to providers to recruit and retain child care teachers, through bonuses, retention grants, and wage supplements, so we can raise the quality of the education and care provided;
· “And, expanding the supply and capacity of child care providers, so working parents have multiple quality child care options to best suit their family’s needs and ensuring child care facilities are designed and equipped to keep children healthy and safe.
“This is the foundation we should be working from, not a partisan bill that destroys the system we have built together.
“I am hopeful members will give this bill consideration, let us know what we got right, what we got wrong, and most importantly how to make it better.
“That’s the legislative process I hope that we pursue, that we put the reckless partisan exercise aside, that we go back to the greatest traditions of this committee and the Senate and seek a reasonable solution that works for all of the country.
“I thank the Chair.”