May 6, 2021

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Biden to call for universal preschool in first address to Congress – CBS News

3 min read

President Biden is set to call for universal preschool when he delivers his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday. With the unveiling of the American Families Plan, Mr. Biden is seeking an “investment in our kids,” and will lay out how his proposal will help families with basic expenses so many struggle with now, according to a White House official familiar with the plan. 

A source familiar with the meeting confirmed to CBS News that over the last day, the White House held briefings with key senators to discuss the details of the proposal.

Mr. Biden’s child care proposal comes as parents have been grappling to make ends meet as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a child care crisis across the country. 

In an effort to provide free, high-quality, accessible preschool care to all 3 and 4 year old children, the president will call for a national partnership with states. The move is expected to benefit 5 million children and save the average family $13,000, when fully implemented, according to the White House.

This historic $200 billion investment will prioritize high-need areas. The goal is to enable communities and families to choose the settings that work best for them. The Biden plan also seeks to ensure that all publicly-funded preschools are high-quality, with low student-to-teacher ratios, high-quality and developmentally appropriate curriculum, and supportive classroom environments that are inclusive for all students. 

President Biden Delivers Remarks On Covid-19 Response
President Biden takes off his sunglasses before speaking on the North Lawn of the White House on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As part of the proposal, the president is seeking to leverage tuition-free community college and teacher scholarships to support those who wish to earn a bachelor’s degree or another credential that supports their work as an educator, or to become an early childhood educator. Educators will also receive job-embedded coaching, professional development, and wages that reflect the importance of their work. 

As part of the American Families Plan, all employees participating in pre-k programs and Head Start will earn at least $15 per hour. Those with comparable qualifications will receive compensation commensurate with that of kindergarten teachers. 

The inclusion of such provisions come as child care workers are struggling to get by. The median wage for child care workers in 2019 was $11.65 an hour, according to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. With the pandemic, thousands of child care workers have left the labor force. 

These investments will give American children a head start and pave the way for the best-educated generation in U.S. history, according to the White House. 

Research shows kids who attend pre-K are more likely to take honors classes and less likely to repeat a grade one study found. Another study shows low-income children who attend universal programs do better in math and reading as late as eighth grade. But many children across the country do not have access to high quality preschool programs. The challenges are even greater for children of color and in low-income communities. A White House official told CBS that part of the reason behind the effort was to “invest” in future generations and to help compete with rivals like China.

“Together, these plans reinvest in the future of the American economy and American workers, and will help us out-compete China and other countries around the world,” a White House official said in a statement. In a separate call, a senior administration official said the U.S. would not “shy away” from countering China.

At the same time, the American Rescue Plan will also continue to build the American Rescue Plan‘s historic reductions in child poverty. 

In pitching both the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan plans, White House officials have argued that the proposals will be fully paid for. Their proposals include a tax hike to push big corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to pay more, claiming it’s time for them to pay “their fair share.” If enacted as they propose, they claim the legislation will add no addition to the debt. Mr. Biden has previously said he is willing to hear other proposals for how to pay for the investments but has vowed there will be no tax increase on any Americans earning less than $400,000. 

Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.

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