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The State of the Build Back Better Act as it is Related to Childhood Education

Editorial

1/27/2022 | Jenna Paskey

It’s been four months since the introduction of the Build Back Better Act (BBB), a massive $1.75 trillion dollar piece of legislation for social spending and climate policy. Most notably for early childhood education leaders, the BBB proposes a $390 billion dollar plan to address a need for a drastic increase in assistance and access to childcare and early education, areas that have been historically underfunded. The underinvestment in current programs has negatively impacted the availability, affordability, and quality of childcare in the United States. Meaning, most families don’t have quality options nearby, it costs a large percentage of their income, and threatens to provide little value to the development of children when undersupplied. It is apparent that this underinvestment in childcare can impact not only school readiness and child development, but parental job stability and stimulating the economy. 

Historically, childcare assistance has been under the Child Care and Development Block Grant, (CCDBG). With limited federal funding, states have been forced to restrict eligibility for assistance programs. Currently, of those children eligible for childcare assistance, 1 in 9 children under the age of 6 have received these subsidies. This number drastically increases under BBB, reaching 13 million children when in full effect. This is an estimated 16 times increase by 2025. Some states, such as Virginia, can expect to see a 33.3 times increase of children receiving assistance under this bill. How much of an increase can your state expect to see? Refer to the graph below from the Center for American Progress, analyzing the numbers of children from working parent households currently receiving subsidies, and how this compares to the potential outcome under BBB.

SUMMARY: BBB expects to see a 16 fold increase in child care assistance, reaching 93% of families and 13 million children under the age of 6.

Now that we know just how large of an impact BBB has, exactly what does this bill propose states do in order to expand childcare and early education? Simply put, the BBB proposes a plan to:

  1. Offer universal and free preschool for all 3-and-4-year-olds in a setting that best meets a family’s needs - including public school, child care providers, and Head Start. 
  2. Provide states with federal funds to increase the supply of accessible and high-quality childcare options, such as additional businesses, recruiting new educators, raising wages, and developing additional classrooms. 
  3. Provide states with federal funds to increase eligibility for subsidies for families in a “phase-in” process that will take place over the first 3 years. Meaning some families may not directly benefit the first year, depending on their level of income. 

SUMMARY: BBB aims to provide families with subsidies necessary to access affordable childcare in a setting best fit for their family, while also investing in the quality of education by increasing funds for areas such as wages, faculty recruitment, and building development. 

While these provisions hold great potential for child development and economic growth, there are many steps involved for implementing such a mammoth plan. This blog series will continue to break down what the BBB is, in regards to child care, how it impacts each state, who is eligible and when, but also how it is paid for and plans to implement its proposed goals and “phase-in” processes. For now, some notable elements of BBB include the following: 

  1. BBB is a 6-year plan, targeting assistance for children ages birth to 5 years old, who have not yet started kindergarten, meaning school-age children are excluded from subsidies. However, plans within the already established CCDBG mentioned above may see a shift from early learning to expanded school-age assistance options. 
  2. How are funds distributed over the years? 
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  3. States can choose to NOT participate and accept funds. Various red states have already expressed opposition to the plan. 
  4. States who choose to participate and accept funding will be required to provide child care assistance to all eligible families by October 1, 2024.
  5. Eligibility is determined by a family’s income as a percentage of state median income (SMI), rather than income relative to the poverty line, to account for differences in cost of living from state to state. 
  6. How will funds be divided amongst different purposes? 
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As we see, expansion in child care assistance and early education comes with great benefits and often has bipartisan support. However, the future of BBB is currently unknown as we wait to see how conflict within the Democratic Party unfolds. BBB has already passed in the House of Representatives, and is currently up for debate in the Senate. Due to push back from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) from West Virginia, in combination with lack of Republican support and use of a political tool known as a filibuster, advancement of the bill has halted. It is expected to know more on the fate of BBB as we approach February 18, 2022, the current deadline for passing new funding resolutions within the government. 

Check back for parts 2, 3, and 4 of this blog series on the Build Back Better Act, as related to childcare and early education, for more detailed information about what this bill is, how much it costs, who pays, who reaps its benefits, but also, why it has received continued criticism from both sides of the aisle. 

References: 

Jenna is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University John Glenn College of Public Affairs with a Bachelor Degree in Public Management, Leadership, and Policy, with a minor in International Development. When not working she runs additionally owns and operates an art business. 

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