I once thought that my college degree had nothing to do with early childhood education. I majored in political science and minored in medical anthropology at York College, City University of New York. I even aspired to become an attorney to defend vulnerable communities. But seven years ago, my calling to become a public servant led me to seize an opportunity to open a home-based child care center in Freeport, New York to educate children and provide working parents with a safe space for their kids.
I’m sharing my story so people can see the person behind the child care provider and hear from me that for the sake of our economy, the U.S. Senate must pass the Build Back Better bill with no further cuts to early childhood education. We must provide each child with the tools, resources, and nurturing spaces they need to grow and create a bright future for themselves and society.
It turns out that the education I received —and continue to receive on my way to obtaining the Children’s Program Administrator Credential— has given me the knowledge and strength to educate young children and see through a broken system that needs urgent intervention. Working in the child care sector helped me to see atrocious inequalities, where educators, overwhelmingly Black and brown women, are chronically underpaid.
The Build Back Better Act will be transformational for families and the economy. The investments in this bill will produce immediate benefits by expanding families’ access to high-quality, affordable child care and compensating early childhood educators for the true costs and value that they provide to families and our economy. This funding is a down payment for redressing the systemic harm to Black and brown families, particularly women, from decades of underinvestment that have promoted racial and gender economic inequality.
Take it from me, an early childhood educator who working parents depend on to care for their little children. Because of my child care service, parents can get to work and keep our economy moving. The funding in Build Back Better provides the only true investment we have ever seen for supporting the littlest members of our society and the workers who educate them.
The child care crisis along with the COVID-19 pandemic has forced child care providers to close their doors permanently because the wages they receive are no longer enough to cover bare minimum expenses such as rent, payroll, and food. I myself had to lower child care tuition so working families in need could afford to enroll their kids at my center. That means that I am no longer able to afford to pay a living wage to my early childhood educators or myself.
We are in critical need of investments before the system collapses.
Millions of women have been forced out of the labor market because they bear much of the burden for family care and lack quality, affordable child care. And too many of those who provide vital child care and early childhood education —the workforce behind our workforce— cannot even afford to support their own families. It shouldn’t be this way.
The Build Back Better Act will support the infrastructure of child care and create affordable, accessible quality programs in every community, ensuring every child has a nurturing and healthy space to truly grow in. The compensation for providers nationally would be increased so that child care providers are paid for their invaluable service.
The child care movement has been organizing for years. I have met with Congressional officials, joined virtual town hall meetings with child care educators from across the nation, and participated in rallies to bring to light the need for child care reform. Today, we are closer than ever to creating an economy that works for all of us. If we are a country that values education and families, then compensating early childhood educators with a living wage should be the standard.
Build Back Better will allow small business owners like myself to provide benefits to our staff. We will finally see a collaborative approach in supporting three- and four-year-old children in pre-kindergarten while working alongside the K-12 school districts, child care providers, and families to ensure every family has a choice in choosing the appropriate setting for their children. The funding in the bill would establish a true, mixed-delivery program that would embrace providers across various settings to allow parents true choice.
Under the umbrella of Community Change Action’s Child Care Changemakers, we will keep organizing alongside thousands of early childhood educators and parents to pass the Build Back Better bill in the Senate with its investments in families intact. The economy will not recover unless we pass such policies that support families and women, especially those of color.