Advancing Equity in Arts in Child Care and Preschool programs

Congressional leaders announced a proposal this week to better help low-income families pay for child care and expand high-quality state preschool options. The introduction of the Child Care for Working Families Act signals the intent of Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to respond to the needs of families with young children.

Scott and Murray are the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the U.S. House and Senate Committees that oversee education and childcare programs. After work by GIA, this bill also includes a robust focus on integrating the arts into child care and preschool programs and supports. If this bill were to become law, it would significantly advance equity in arts for low- and moderate-income children in childcare and preschool settings.

Scott and Murray, in a blog post earlier this month, signaled their intent to make addressing childcare costs and preschool availability and quality a priority over the next two years. The introduction of the Child Care for Working Families Act is their latest effort to advance policy in these areas. The bill would increase child care subsidies to low-income families to limit their out of pocket costs to seven percent of their income and establish a State preschool program. A version of this legislation was introduced in 2017, but this is the first time this legislation has rightly recognized the importance of supporting the integration and use of the arts in child care programs.

First, the bill would expand the focus of the funds states receive under the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), a federal program that provides funds to states to make child care affordable, to include the arts. Under CCDBG, each state is required to reserve a portion of the funding they receive to improve the quality of child care programs. The bill would expressly allow the use of these funds to provide professional development and training for those providing child care in how effectively to utilize and integrate the arts into child care.

Second, the bill would take a similar approach to State preschool. As mentioned above, the bill would establish a State preschool program, seeking to provide greater access to preschool for low-and moderate-income young children. This program would also authorize states to use the state level share of resources (with the remainder going down to support local preschool programs) to provide professional development and training to teachers, principals and others in schools to effectively utilize and integrate the arts into these programs.

Third, the bill also requires all preschool programs to use research-based curricula that are aligned with State early learning standards to address a number of domains, including the creative arts. This will ensure that each preschool program that is funded under the bill utilizes a curriculum that addresses how to effectively use the arts to promotive and achieve a positive learning environment. This is similar to the current requirement that presently exists for Head Start programs.

We look forward to working with Scott and Murray as they seek to advance this legislation and ensure that greater equity exists in how low- and moderate-income children have access to, and benefit from the arts.