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Infrastructure Bill: How Much Does Universal Pre-K for 3-& 4-Year-Olds Save Families?

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The infrastructure bill currently awaiting a vote in Congress includes a provision for universal pre-k for 3- and 4-year-old children. Balancing daycare costs with the need or desire to work has been a continuous struggle for parents of young children. If passed, the $200 billion investment into childcare could save families an average of $13,000, according to Fortune.com.

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The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies notes that the average cost of preschool ranges from $4,460 to $13,158 annually. Costs can vary depending on the school selected, the region where you live, and also whether you opt for full- or part-time pre-k, writes Mom.com.

In addition to offering free preschool, the bill would provide federal funding to help states pay for the programs. Under the law, teachers and other employees of the schools would earn $15 an hour.

The provision, part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, seeks to address inequity in education. American children would receive two years of free pre-k to help set them up for success in K through 12 and two years of free community college to give them a jumpstart on their career. The bill would also include expanded childcare subsidies for families in need.

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The universal pre-k would also help parents return to the workforce after the pandemic. In spring 2020, 3.5 million working mothers left the workforce to care for school-age children. In January 2021, 10 million U.S. mothers living with their own school-age children were not employed. That is 1.4 million more than were staying at home in January 2020, prior to the pandemic, according to a Census.gov report.

Parents with younger children faced similar challenges, with daycare centers shut down at the height of the pandemic. Today, the problem persists, as the childcare industry faces a tremendous labor shortage. The National Association for the Education of Young Children reports that 80% of childcare centers are short-staffed, according to an article on news site RochesterFirst.com. The article stated that the average starting wage for childcare workers is just $12 to $13.50 an hour.

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By increasing wages for workers and introducing the option of free universal pre-k for 3- and 4-year-old children, the bill addresses a number of issues facing American families today. The legislation might help alleviate at least one burden facing parents amidst the pandemic and help parents return to work with the support they need.

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