May 12, 2021

Biden’s $1.8 Trillion Plan: Child Care, Student Aid and More

Mr. Biden’s plan differs in that it calls for universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, including those from affluent families. That is the same approach pioneered in recent years by city programs in New York and Washington, which expanded quickly to serve a diverse swath of families, but not without some evidence that they replicated the segregation and inequities of the broader K-12 education system.

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, has been a critic of the universal approach, instead favoring more targeted programs. He questioned whether states would do their part to fund the expansion and said the goal of paying all early childhood workers $15 per hour was too modest to broadly improve the quality and stability of the work force.

“How governors weigh these competing priorities, ethically and politically, remains an open question,” he said.

The proposed investment from Washington comes at a precarious time. Preschool enrollment declined by nearly 25 percent over the past year, largely because of the coronavirus pandemic. As of December, about half of 4-year-olds and 40 percent of 3-year-olds attended pre-K, including in remote programs. And only 13 percent of children in poverty were receiving an in-person preschool education in December, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Unlike the preschool proposal, the child care plan is not universal. It would offer subsidies to families earning up to 1.5 times their state’s median income, which could be in the low six figures in some locations. It would also continue tax credits approved in the pandemic relief bill this year that offer benefits to people earning up to $400,000 a year.

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