In a rare bipartisan compromise, the House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program Monday. The Senate passed its version in March, and the compromise means President Barack Obama will see the final bill before the end of the session.
The new legislation offers vouchers to low-income families that will allow them to obtain child care from their choice of providers, including faith-based organizations, according to a statement released by the Education & the Workforce Committee.
“The two parties view the child care program and its benefits differently,” Politico noted. “Republicans are attracted to its emphasis on school choice and its roots in welfare reform: Congress last passed the child care law to make it easier for low-income mothers to work.”
“Democrats, many of whom have become strong advocates for early education in recent years, see the program more as a part of early education policy that could help stimulate brain development and help boost kindergarten readiness. Many Democrats would have liked a much bigger emphasis on education in the bill,” Politico added.
The Children’s Defense Fund was pushing for passage, noting on its website that “funding for the program has not kept pace with inflation over the last decade and the program only serves 1 in 4 eligible children under age 6. Moreover, the last reauthorization of CCDBG in 1996 did not take into account much of what we know now about the importance of high quality environments for children’s healthy development.”
The liberal Center for American Progress is pleased with the outcome, but is still hoping for more.
“While these changes represent progress, this is just the first step toward helping families access affordable, high-quality child care,” CAP said in a statement. “We must now turn to increasing funding to support families’ access to child care and targeting federal funds to high-quality providers that go beyond minimum health and safety standards to support early learning and school readiness.”