After a nearly two-decade-long wait, the U.S. Senate has finally reauthorized the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. Designed to help states provide child-care and after-school activities for low-income families, the multi-billion dollar program has nearly 1.5 million enrollees, including many Hispanic children. However, gridlock in Congress has prevented necessary updates to the program since it was passed in 1996.
That was until Thursday, when the Senate voted 96 to 2 in favor of a bipartisan bill that would make a range of updates to the federal child care program. The overall goal is to improve the health and safety of children whose families use child care subsidies and to focus on high-quality education.
Among the changes prescribed by the bill, states would be required to set aside a greater portion of their funds to improve the quality of child care programs. The bill would also require that states conduct background checks on child care providers and workers, and that parents are given better information to compare child care providers. A number of safety measures were included in the bill as well, requiring states to conduct inspections before granting licenses to child care providers and requiring that staff at all facilities go through basic health and safety trainings. Overall, the re-authorization would make much needed changes to the state plan to remedy issues that have been identified over the past 20 years by parents, education providers, and other advocates.
Although the bill still has to get through the much more divided House of Representatives, the Senate has certainly earned a well-deserved pat on the back for the smooth passage of this legislation. Instead of allowing divisive amendments to poison the bill, lawmakers chose to work together and improve this legislation, so that it had the best possible chance of passing through the chamber. And in today’s Washington, that type of bipartisanship is a feat in and of itself.
Now we call on the House to follow the example set by the Senate by reaching across the aisle and working together to pass this critical legislation. There’s no reason why we have to wait 20 years to make the necessary updates that would improve the quality of child care programs for some of our most vulnerable youngsters.
Providing a healthy and safe environment for children to learn in shouldn’t be a political issue.