Build Back Better plan for child care, preschool will be bad for parents, providers

There is no question parents need affordable, safe and reliable child care to be able to go to work or school. For the parents of the 12 million children in the U.S. under age 5 who rely on child care providers, it is critical we have the right child care policies in place.

The federal “Build Back Better” plan will negatively impact child care and universal preschool by reducing parents’ child care options, driving costs higher, making it more difficult for providers to operate and enter the industry, and by making it even harder to attract and retain a qualified workforce.

Anthony Russo. (File photo)

Parents want access to high-quality child care and preschool that meets the needs of their family. By overturning 30 years of bipartisan support for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, “Build Back Better” places the federal government at the center of every family’s decision-making about child care and preschool.

This plan reduces parents’ child care options by favoring grants and contracts to government-favored Head Start centers and public schools over certificates that allow parents to choose for themselves where to send their child, such as community-based centers, family child care, private providers or faith-based operators.

The proposal will also crush the already overburdened family child care sector with additional regulations and paperwork. It will force thousands of child care providers to spend countless hours and dollars filling out this paperwork to keep their doors open — hours and dollars not spent caring for and educating the young children entrusted to their care.

This plan will drive up the already-high cost of care for middle class families to $13,000 a year. It also places the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the helm of approving every state’s child care cost estimation model that will be used to determine how many taxpayer dollars will be paid out each year for child care entitlements.

If governors and state legislatures determine their state budgets cannot afford the future costs of these programs, the proposal gives authority to the Secretary of HHS to override elected state leaders and give local governments and unelected Head Start agencies the funding and decision-making power.

Some federal lawmakers claim the child care and preschool programs will only cost $400 billion over the next decade. But the Penn Wharton model estimates the programs will cost at least $700 billion over the next decade.

The intention of the child care and preschool provision of the “Build Back Better” is laudable — all families deserve access to high-quality affordable care for their children. But this current provision has unintended consequences that will penalize parents, providers and, most importantly, children. Congress can and should do better — changes need to be made to this legislation before it becomes law.

Anthony Russo is the president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.