Child care is education and must be universal

New York’s leaders must prioritize making child care more accessible for families. Early care and education is a right, not a privilege. It is an essential part of our early education system,  to healthy communities, and to our state’s economy, and it must be available to all.

We have long known that child care provides countless developmental and educational benefits to children — that alone should be reason enough to support investment in a more affordable, accessible child care system that can serve more families and children.

As our economy and workforce has modernized over the past decades, our support for our child care system hasn’t kept up, putting enormous strain on undervalued, underpaid providers and educators, and on parents forced to balance participation in the workforce with caring for their children.

Now, we are facing a moment of reckoning. We can no longer expect to sustain our economy on the unpaid labor of mothers at home caring for their children. The pandemic proved how difficult it is to work remotely with children in need of constant monitoring and supervision. And our current child care system disadvantages women of color, in particular — both as parents, disproportionately unable to access care, and as child care educators, many of whom are women of color, and so poorly compensated for the care they provide that many live in poverty.

Enough is enough. New York needs to finally recognize the great value child care provides to our families and our economy, and invest in a child care system for the 21st century. We need universal child care — quality, accessible, affordable child care for all New York’s families. Our representatives in Albany are deciding what to propose for next year’s budget right now. Email them and urge them to make universal child care their top priority!

Investing in child care is essential, not just to our families and our communities, but also to the economy. Research shows that investment in high quality early childhood is a highly effective form of economic development, with up to $16 in benefit each year for every dollar spent. That puts all the so-called “economic development” programs touted by state officials to shame. Our state’s ability to recover from COVID-19 and our economic future is deeply intertwined with the willingness of state leaders to see clearly the importance — and the potential — of prioritizing child care at this moment.

New York needs to make a bold new investment of $5 billion in the final budget to build the path to universal child care. The good news is that we even have the money to get it done. There is no better way to invest part of the state’s multi-billion dollar surplus. What we need is the political will from our state leaders. Email your State Legislators now urging them to support investing $5 billion in this year’s state budget in a universal child care system for our New York.