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Bonnie W.
Democrat NJ 12

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  • Child Care

    by Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman

    Posted on 2016-01-07

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    WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the subject of my Special Order.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from New Jersey? There was no objection.

    Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, a couple of decades ago support for child care fell under conservative attack. At the time, the argument went that offering low cost or free child care to working families would create an incentive for women to leave their homes and their traditional roles as caretakers.

    That argument attempted to capitalize on panic about the collapse of the so-called traditional families. But to be honest, I don't think it ever had teeth in the first place.

    The reason most women left home to enter the workforce, the real reason that countless women work today, is to make ends meet. In an economy that is built to work for corporations and their CEOs, working families have found themselves trying to stretch every dollar.

    The leadership of this House seems content to keep that struggle going. It is time to take a second look at policies that will help our middle class. It is time to stand up for high-quality child care, accessible and affordable for every family, and a childcare workforce that earns the pay they deserve.

    Mr. Speaker, I want to make something very clear. This is neither an isolated problem, nor is it one with limited impact. This is the new normal. In addition to outrageous costs, limited access to quality child care and pre-K means stunted development for children and further division between those with means and those without.

    If you have got the resources, child care that costs more than the median rent isn't a big deal. If you have got the resources, child care that costs more than tuition at a public college across more than half of the country isn't a big deal.

    If you have got the resources, you can give your child a leg up with pre-K and child care that sets them up for academic success, higher wages, and better jobs and careers.

    If you don't have these resources because you are working minimum- wage jobs or your wages have been flat for years or you are one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans still unemployed, leaders in Congress say: Well, too bad about that. That is unacceptable.

    Mr. Speaker, the average cost of child care for a family with an infant and a 4-year-old is $17,755. In my State of New Jersey, the average cost for the same family would be $21,000.

    That price tag is outrageous, and it probably has quite a bit to do with why only 35 percent of pre-school-age children are currently enrolled in pre-K programs despite the benefits that pre-K offers.

    Ninety percent of brain development happens before the age of 5. Every dollar invested in early childhood education returns in public benefits. There are few better ways we can spend our money.

    Mr. Speaker, there is one more reason we are making this a priority. The teachers responsible for our youngest minds earn salaries that cannot cover the expenses of their own families. While first grade teachers earn roughly $45,000 annually, pre-K teachers earn only $27,000.

    These men and women hold one of the most important roles in our society and make some of the greatest impacts on our kids. They deserve pay that matches the value they offer.

    This issue has waited long enough for attention from this Nation's leaders. It is time for Congress to make sure that every family has access to child care and early childhood education.

    [[Page H163]] Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Bass).

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