KANSAS CITY, Mo. — President Biden announced the American Families Plan on Wednesday, a $1.8-trillion plan to invest in childhood education through an extensive list of social programs to help families of all income levels.
“We talk very cavalierly about children being our future," United Inner City Services CEO Deidre Anderson said. "This is the most robust plan that I’ve ever seen that would really make true investments."
Anderson believes the time has come to rewire the child-care system in the U.S., which Paula Neth with the Family Conservancy said has been built on a faulty business model for far too long.
“Currently, the system is financed by families for the majority of the part, so many families in our communities can pay anywhere from 20% of their income for a married couple and, for a single-parent household, up to 40% of their income for infant/toddler care,” Neth said.
Child care costs some families as much as $10,000 annually.
Meanwhile, wages for teachers and child-care providers remains low, but many mothers are still forced to quit their jobs to make ends meet.
Parents like Chelsea Childress had no option but to forgo pre-K for her kids.
“It was difficult because I’m staying at home to save money, but at the same time I can’t work to make that money, so it was very difficult,” Childress said.
Neth said it also hurts children's development during a critical period.
“This is a public good," she said. "Just like our K-12 system is a public good, we know that those first five years of life are so critical in a child’s development. Now, we’re putting our money where our values are.”
Anderson said early-childhood education has proven to decrease incarceration rates, increase personal income and decrease the special-education referrals.
Biden’s plan would provide universal preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds and ensure low- and middle-income families do not pay more than 7% of their income on child care.
“Why in early childhood are we so heavily reliant on fundraising in order to do what’s best practice?" Anderson said. "I applaud this administration for really putting a robust plan together that would support all programs, and then many programs that have been holding on for a long time. It would bring in a lot of resources into the system."
The president plans to fund the program by raising the highest income-tax bracket's rate 1% to 39.6%. He also will raise taxes on capital gains to 39.6% for households making more than $1 million and end the estate-tax loophole for estates in excess of $1 million.
“Who the heck do you think pays for all those services? The public does. You’re going to pay somewhere, so it’s better to pay in the front end than to pay to correct things later,” Anderson said.
Republicans have already expressed opposition to the tax hikes, but Democrats hold narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress.