Will Congress Fund Early Childhood Care and Education?

Mary Ann Biermeier, M.Ed.

Note to reader: Throughout this article you will find links to allow yourself the ability to read and consider; informing and developing your own views and opinions.

The child care and early learning industry has long been in crisis.  A crisis of inequitable access for communities of color, poverty-level wages for early educators, and unaffordable care for far too many families. The impact of COVID-19 may be the final blow, pushing the industry to the brink of collapse.  

Recently signed into law, Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 H.R. 133 allocates $2.3 trillion, including more than $900 billion in COVID relief. This legislation provides schools and universities with a total of $82 billion.  The legislation also provides $10 billion to the Child Care Development Block Grant to help families with child care costs and help providers cover increased operating costs.  That is a lot of money, but on the other hand, there is a lot of need.

The $10 billion is woefully short of the $50 billion requested by a consortium of over 100 early childhood organizations including NAEYC, Child Care Aware of America, and the Early Care & Education Consortium.  In a shared letter the group notes that while “other industries, like airlines, have received a large influx of funds to help them stay afloat, no such rescue package has been available for child care and public education, both of which should be essential public goods.”

Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC, says the need for Congress to act is clear:

“This broad coalition of groups representing all parts of the American systems providing care and education shows that as the crisis has persisted, the danger to our system is real and getting worse,” she said in a statement Wednesday, September 16, 2020.  “But Congress can act to support children, families, and our economy by providing substantial emergency funding needed to prevent 82 percent of child care programs from closing in the next year, and to support schools in staying open safely.”

While welcoming $10 billion emergency provisions in the current legislation, the failure of Congress to fund essential child care and early education foreshadows devastating consequences ahead.  We can see the road we are traveling.  Other modern nation-states have led the way, stepping up and responding to the research and evidence which supports the funding of early care and the early education industry.  Why not here in the United States?


We believe that all children have the right to quality early childhood care and education.  We believe that working families have a right to affordable child care and early education.   We believe the economics are clear, that a quality early childhood education lifts families out of poverty.  These are the core values we share.

Some things in life are true.  What we value, we invest in.

A vast number of programs and projects are funded in H.R.133.  As President Biden is often quoted, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value”.  Although this writer cannot and should not comment on the merits these programs, the magnitude of need for our working families, children, and educators most certainly should have taken priority.

The 116th Congress instead chose to prioritize funding to foreign nations, even building education systems overseas through H.R. 133 :

  • $950 million for “Development Assistance” and “Economic Support Fund” for foreign basic and higher education systems development through the Department of State. (p. 1537)
  • $1.7 billion for McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program. (p. 63)
  • $500 million for border security in Jordan and another $250 million for additional border security in Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Oman. (p. 407)
  • $86 million for assistance to Cambodia (p. 1467); $130 million to Nepal (p. 1485); $135 million to Burma (p. 1485); $453 million to Ukraine (p. 1500); $132 million to Georgia. (p. 1499)
  • $420 million for biodiversity conservation programs, wildlife poaching and trafficking. (p. 1540)
  • $188 million for “Agricultural Marketing Service”. (p. 17)
  • $2 billion for construction, acquisition, designing and engineering of “fossil-fueled electric generating plants”. (pp. 52-53)
  • $68 million for what are called “democracy programs” in Venezuela (p.1498); in Pakistan (p.1486); and in central Europe (p.1507).
  • $10 million for what are called “gender programs” in Pakistan. (p.1486)
  • $231 million to help pay down the national debt of Sudan. (pp. 1296, 1457, 1459, 1589, 1591)
  • $3.8 billion in aid to Israel for security assistance, missile defense, anti-tunnel technology and counter-unmanned aerial systems. (pp. 341, 1290, 1302, 1303)
  • $325 million to the Congo for stabilization and economic assistance. (p. 1456)
  • $60 million to Malawi for “development assistance”. (p. 1457)
  • $70 million to promote “internet freedom globally”. (p. 1516)
  • $575 million for global “family planning/reproductive health, including in areas where population growth threatens biodiversity or endangered species”. (p. 1531)
  • $200 million for “Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Fund”. (p. 1534)
  • $40 million will be allocated “for the necessary expenses for the operation, maintenance and security” of The Kennedy Center, which received $25 million in another COVID-19 relief bill earlier this year. (p. 860)
  • $45 million to fund research on key factors contributing to migration of undocumented minors. (p. 1491)
  • $1 billion to create a Women’s History Museum and an American Latino Museum as part of the Smithsonian. (pp.336-376)

These are but a few of a very long list of funding priorities – what the 116th Congress values more than early care and education.  After long delays and arduous negotiations in Congress, this legislation tips the scales at 5,593 pages, containing 1,098,082 words.  Keeping in mind the average person reads around 250 words a minute, and if you could stay awake, it would take over three days to read this bill.

Legislators were given only 6 hours to read this mountain of paper, ironically bringing shared condemnation by both sides of the isle. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, “It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours,” she tweeted. “This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking”. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, added his tweet saying Ocasio-Cortez “is right”.  It brings us back to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) once explaining that a bill needed to be passed in order to find out what was in it.  One might wonder just whom Congress argues with and about what? 

Omnibus legislation is an avalanche of commas and zeros, more than one can comprehend. Incomprehensible in scope, they are the footprints of a failed legislative process, allegiances to causes other than a strong middle class, and broken promises to our children.

The Payroll Protection Fund (PPP) demonstrates that funds can move rapidly from the banks to the centers and schools. Directly funding the front lines of service delivery, rather than squandering funds in slow motion between the Federal and State bureaucratic swamps.  It begs the question, who decided the Department of Education was the correct agency for allocating funds to the states and then programs providing early care and education?  Perhaps we should be lobbying the Small Business Administration and the Banking industry – after all we are looking to be financed. 

This past week, the Biden administration unveiled the American Rescue Plan.  Under this proposed stimulus bill $25 billion would be established an emergency fund for child care providers and an additional $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. Together with the $10 billion set aside in the January stimulus package, this proposal would reach the $50 billion advocates have said is necessary to stabilize the child care industry.  This funding can be a life line if it gets through Congress.

Now, more than ever, we must put our values into action. Call it a silver lining in the belly of the storm: The pandemic has made social inequity crystal clear. It has demonstrated how essential child care and early education is to the economy and to lifting families out of poverty. It has finally turned the child care and early education crisis into an urgent talking point. The question now is whether Congress will do what is necessary.  Will talking points of raising families out of poverty be just another hollow monologue, or could this be a turning point in a new direction?

You can make a difference by contacting your legislators, asking them not to cut child care and early education funding from this new measure.  Child Care Aware America has created an easy and quick way to get that done.  Please follow this link and raise your voice in support.  If we do this together, we can and will make an impact. Together we can transform this industry from crisis to a movement.

Views and opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not express the views or opinions of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AzAEYC).

References and Links:

CCAoA. (2020, December 22). CCAoA statement on federal COVID-19 relief and FY21 funding. Webinar: COVID-19 Resources for Child Care Providers and CCR&Rs. https://info.childcareaware.org/media/ccaoa-statement-on-federal-covid-19-relief-and-fy21-funding

ChildCare Aware of America. (n.d.). Speak up for child care. Child Care Aware® of America. https://www.childcareaware.org/our-issues/advocacy/take-action/speak-up-child-care/?utm_medium=email&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–9L-cfh_33Nc380UZvPiFpECWYx7m8ZLNVsZsDw-gJifewLHF2J0zTzBT2MdmuZmwBkoBXYY_wPIy8qpaH4mvbPUZDtA&_hsmi=108408210&utm_content=108408208&utm_source=hs_email&hsCtaTracking=7b85ce32-0de6-4363-950e-5c656dfb7b64%7C7e448dbd-5878-4fcb-b449-b9425aceb72e

Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC). (2021, January 15). Early childhood education leaders come together to combat COVID-19. PR Newswire: press release distribution, targeting, monitoring and marketing. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/early-childhood-education-leaders-come-together-to-combat-covid-19-301209391.html?tc=eml_cleartime

Education Week. (2021, January 20). What Biden’s ‘American rescue plan’ would do for schools and students, in one chart. https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/what-bidens-american-rescue-plan-would-do-for-schools-and-students-in-one-chart/2021/01

FOX News Channel. (2020, December 21). Congress had six hours to read a 6,000 page bill, AOC calls it ‘hostage-taking. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/lawmakers-six-hours-6000-page-covid-relief-bill

House Rules Committee. (2020, December 21). Rules committee print 116–68 text of the house amendment to the senate amendment to H.R. 133. House of Representatives Committee on Rules. https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/BILLS-116HR133SA-RCP-116-68.pdf

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2020, September 16). National and state organizations to call on Congress for $250 billion to stabilize child care and K-12 education. NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/about-us/news/press-releases/stabilize-child-care

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2020, September 16). Congress must immediately pass at least $50billion to stabilize child care and $200 billion for K-12 education. NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/our-work/public-policy-advocacy/copy_of_child_care_and_k-12_open_letter_to_congress.pdf

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2020, July 13). Holding on until help comes: A survey reveals child care’s fight to survive. NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/our-work/public-policy-advocacy/holding_on_until_help_comes.survey_analysis_july_2020.pdf

NRCC Communications. (2013, March 8). Joe Biden: Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=vuLwjFmESrg

Perry Preschool Project. (2018, November 27). Does high-quality preschool education make a difference? HighScope. https://highscope.org/perry-preschool-project/

Real Clear Politics. (2013, November 17). David Gregory asks Pelosi about “Pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it”. RealClearPolitics. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/11/17/david_gregory_asks_pelosi_about_pass_the_bill_so_you_can_find_out_whats_in_it_comment.html

Small Business Administration. (n.d.). Paycheck protection program. Paycheck Protection Program. Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program