Why I’m Fighting for Child Care Reform

As a single dad racing to my construction job by 7 a.m., I struggled to find affordable, quality daycare for my son. That was around 40 years ago, and since then, I’ve heard many similar stories from hardworking men and women.

Studies have found that the first five years of a child’s life are critical in setting them up for success, which makes the selection of daycare an important choice. But too many parents are forced to choose affordable care over quality care – especially parents who work outside the “9-to-5” workday.

The average cost for child care in New Jersey is $9,546 per year for just one child, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That’s a large chunk of most workers’ annual salary. In fact, a typical family with two children in our state pays close to 24% of their income on child care – for low-wage working families, it’s over 55%. That makes it unaffordable to work! That’s not just a personal hardship, but an economic crisis for thousands of families, and we must address it immediately.

In Congress, I’m fighting for ways we can help provide safe, nurturing learning environments for more children. The Child Care for Working Families Act offers a comprehensive set of initiatives to make child care affordable and flexible nationwide. If this bill passed, parents would be able to choose what works best for their family – whether it’s center-based care, home-based care, or provided by family and friends.

The plan would ensure child care choices never deter people from carrying a full-time job by capping out-of-pocket child care expenses at 7% of a family’s income. It would also expand care options and provide grants to give more families access to quality care. Plus, with strong safety and health standards, assistance for children with disabilities and resources to expand universal preschool programs, this legislative solution sets up our children for success.

I recently met a young mother from Runnemede who attended a town hall and asked how we can get more top-quality child care professionals in our area given high turnover rates in the industry. By investing in higher compensation and training opportunities, the Child Care for Working Families Act would help attract and retain a talented, dedicated and well-trained workforce of caregivers.

This comprehensive plan is strongly supported by advocates for quality, affordable childcare. So why isn’t Congress taking action to help working families? That answer lies in the priorities of President Donald Trump and his accomplices. Instead of focusing on kids and care, they passed an expensive tax scam that benefits their billionaire backers at the expense of hardworking New Jersey families. Now they want to take back $7 billion from CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. Clearly children aren’t their priority.

The Trump crowd is more into coddling their corporate cronies than caring about our kids. But that doesn’t mean we should stop caring. It means we should elect candidates who will stand up for our kids instead of throwing them under the bus. Part of the American Dream is providing your children with a better life than you had, and child care reforms will give millions of families a better shot at achieving the dream. Let's demand leaders who understand that.

Every Young Learner Deserves Affordable, High-Quality Education


All around the country, child care workers get up every morning and go to their jobs where they care for, inspire and help raise our youngest learners. They teach our kids how to read, how to hold a pencil, how to take turns and share with their classmates, how to resolve disagreements and so much more.

And yet, at the end of a long, tiring, often thankless day, so many of these professionals go home only to worry about how they will make ends meet.

They are not alone. For too long, education has been put on the back burner: As budgets are slashed in states across the country, too many schools are crumbling, too many students are using old and worn supplies, and too many teachers are not getting paid what they should be for the work they do.

It’s encouraging to see teachers across the country organizing and using their voices to stand together with their unions and demand the tools, and the pay, they need to help our students succeed — and it’s up to all of us, at every level of government, to show that we have their backs. That’s true in K-12 education, which is getting a lot of attention right now, but early childhood educators and child care workers are still being left behind too.

The average child care worker makes a little over $10 an hour, or about $22,290 a year. While the majority of these professionals are low-income women of color with a high school diploma, some have a two-year or even four-year degree — but still many are forced to supplement their salaries with public assistance. When these child care workers are unable to make ends meet, many leave for better-paying jobs in K-12 schools or elsewhere. As a result, our youngest learners and their parents pay the price.

We know the benefits of high-quality early learning and care. The right start in education can lead to a wide range of short- and long-term benefits. Children who have access to high-quality early learning and care are more likely to perform better in school and make more money later in life, and are less likely to commit crimes. Nations across the globe see the same evidence and invest in early childhood education. In the United States, however, too many families struggle to find high-quality care — and those that do often cannot afford the skyrocketing costs. Investing in our youngest learners and the teachers who care for them is not only the right thing to do, it is a smart investment for our economy and our future.

That is why, last year, we introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act. Our bill ensures that no family has to pay more than they can afford on child care. It also prepares our youngest learners for success in kindergarten and beyond by expanding access to high-quality preschool for low- and middle-income 3- and 4-year-olds. Finally, to ensure that we are attracting and keeping the very best, our bill would provide child care professionals and preschool teachers with better training and a livable wage.

This bill has broad support in Congress and from parents, teachers and child care workers around the country. We have 30 co-sponsors in the Senate, over 120 co-sponsors in the House and over 40,000 petitions of support from working families.

Just last month, we passed a bipartisan government funding bill with the largest increase ever for child care and a significant increase for Head Start. This is a strong step in the right direction, but our work is not done.

We will keep fighting until the Child Care for Working Families Act is law, and high-quality child care and early learning for all is a reality.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is a former preschool teacher and the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) is the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The Dirty Dozen: The Top Twelve Attacks on Workers and Students during President Trump’s First Year in Office


1. Proposed a rule that would allow employers to pocket workers’ tips. In December 2017, the Department of Labor proposed a rule that would allow employers to pocket tips earned by workers, as long as the employer pays the worker the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

2.Rolled back rules that ensure taxpayer dollars do not go to bad actors. On March 27, 2017, Trump signed a law invalidating rules that required federal contractors disclose their history of labor law violations. The invalidated rules also required agencies to evaluate whether potential contractors stole workers’ pay and endangered worker safety. Moreover, it prohibited contractors from forcing employees to sign away their rights to a day in court if sexual harassment or assault allegations arise.

3. Made saving for retirement even harder. Last spring, Trump signed two laws invalidating rules that allowed states and local governments to set up retirement savings plans for individuals who do not have access to retirement savings plans at work.  In November 2017, the Department of Labor delayed a critical part of the consumer protection rule that allows retirement savers to sue investment advisors who breach their fiduciary duty to provide retirement advice that is in the best interest of their client.

4. Jeopardized worker safety. In June 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stopped work on half of its health and safety standards that were under development, including standards to protect workers from exposure to toxic chemicals, prevent chemical explosion hazards and prevent violence in health care facilities.

5. Weakened protections for workers trying to form a union. Throughout 2017, President Trump made anti-worker appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent agency established to safeguard employees’ rights to organize. Within three months, these Members overturned major pro-worker decisions. Specifically, they overturned a decision that ensured workers can bring all employers to the bargaining table when multiple employers control their pay or working conditions. They also overturned a decision that prevented employers from tipping the scales against unions by gerrymandering union elections.

6. Recommended deep cuts to job training programs that help workers find good-paying jobs. In May 2017, the Trump administration sent a budget request to Congress to make a drastic 40 percent cut to job training programs. These programs help youth, adults, and dislocated workers find good-paying jobs and connect employers to qualified workers.  



7. Exposed victims of sexual assault and transgender students to potential discrimination and harassment on campuses. On February 22, 2017, the Department of Education sent a Dear Colleague letter withdrawing the statements of policy and guidance protecting the rights of transgender students. In September 2017, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released new guidance that rescinds the 2011 and 2014 documents that explained the Title IX requirements to protect for victims of sexual harassment.

8. Prevented students saddled with debt from gaining reliefOver 2017, the Department of Education delayed implementation of the Gainful Employment rule, which would have prevented low-quality career programs from continuing to market themselves to unsuspecting students. The Department also delayed implementation of Borrower Defense rules, which would have allowed borrowers to receive financial relief from unjustified student loan debt

9. Removed protections that improved equity in education. In March 2017, President Trump signed a law that invalidated regulations ensuring that low-income students, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities get the educational support they need to succeed.  Most recently, in December 2017, the Department of Education proposed delaying the implementation of a regulation to protect minority students with disabilities from racial bias in disability identification, placement, and discipline. This would undermine the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was signed into law 42 years ago.


Health Care:

10. Denied workers contraceptive coverage. On October 6, 2017, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury announced rules that would allow employers and institutions of higher education to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees based on the employer’s religious or moral objections.

11. Sabotaged affordable health care coverage for millions of Americans. In December 2017, Republicans paid for huge tax cuts for billionaires and corporations by cutting health care for millions of Americans. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the GOP tax bill will increase premiums by 10 percent and leave 13 million Americans without health insurance over the next 10 years. The administration deliberately tried to sabotage the ACA by cutting outreach and advertising to encourage ACA enrollment and by ending subsidies that help working families with their copays and deductibles. On May 4, 2017, the House passed the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), which, if signed into law, would have resulted in 23 million fewer Americans with health care coverage. 

12. Pushed to undermine consumer protections for small businesses and their employees. Both Congress and the administration have taken steps to try to unravel the ACA’s consumer protections, such as the requirement that small businesses’ health plans cover essential benefits. These benefits include needed coverage, such as maternity care and substance use disorder treatment.  On March 22, 2017, the House passed the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1101), which the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warned could actually increase insurance costs for many small businesses. The administration proposed a related rule on January 5, 2018. 

New Tax Cuts Hurt Virginia’s Working Families

Several weeks have passed since Republicans joyfully passed a tax bill that will saddle our country with $1.5 trillion in debt and make it harder for working families to make ends meet. While they will insist that this bill creates bigger paychecks for everyone, in reality it is a giveaway for large corporations and billionaires.

While many Virginians may initially see small increases in their take-home pay, this bill ensures that middle-class tax cuts will only be temporary — and that middle-class families will permanently pay for the cuts later. The nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that the bottom 60 percent of Virginians will see their taxes increase by nearly $200 in 2027 while the top 1 percent will see a cut of $7,400.

This is just one example of how hugely skewed this bill is in benefiting millionaires and billionaires over working families, and why the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that 83 percent of the benefits of the bill go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers (those who are making more than $460,000 per year).


We know from experience that tax cuts have never paid for themselves, so this is just the beginning. Once our national debt begins to rise as a direct result of this massive tax cut, the president and congressional Republicans will come after Medicare, Medicaid and your hard-earned Social Security, in addition to cutting services for children, students, seniors, veterans and other key programs.


They will say that the burgeoning deficit we now face can only be paid for by cutting these vital services, but these cuts would not be necessary if the tax cuts had not passed.


This is the Republican playbook: complain about our growing debt; cut taxes, adding trillions to the deficit under the false pretense that growth alone will fix it; and when the tooth fairy doesn’t pay for the drastic tax cuts, turn around and cut the pillars of the social safety net. It is the epitome of hypocrisy to say that our national debt is our most pressing issue and then pass a bill that adds $1.5 trillion (and maybe hundreds of billions more when the dust settles) to the national debt.


Instead of focusing on simplifying the tax code, or making it more fair for working Americans, or reducing the deficit, this bill does the exact opposite. It creates vast new special-interest loopholes, creates a child tax credit that hands thousands of dollars to a family of four earning $400,000 a year but gives just $75 to a single parent of two earning $14,500 a year, and pretends that unheard-of levels of economic growth will pay for the budget hole they have created.


While cutting taxes by $1.5 trillion will undoubtedly produce some economic growth, every credible economist agrees that this is the worst way to do it. Republicans’ favored think tank, the Tax Foundation, estimates that their tax cuts will produce 339,000 jobs. This pitiful number means that we will be spending $4.1 million per job.


To get the best “bang for our buck,” we must consider where else $1.5 trillion could have been spent. Other studies have estimated that an infrastructure bill would create 15,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested. At that rate, instead of 339,000 jobs, investing $1.5 trillion in our nation’s infrastructure would create more than 20 million jobs.


We’ve unfortunately been down this road before. In 2001, Congress was debating what would happen if the debt held by the public was paid off, as projected at the time to occur in 2008. Instead of keeping on the path to paying off the debt and shoring up Social Security and Medicare, Congress passed massive tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, fought two wars and passed the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit without any plan for how to pay for these costly endeavors.


Basic arithmetic reveals the truth — we could not afford massive tax cuts 17 years ago, and we certainly cannot afford them now. We are forcing the next generation to pay for lessons we should have learned years ago.


Ultimately, the middle class will be forced to pay for this bill, either directly or indirectly. Only the top 1 percent will be spared. Tuition will continue to skyrocket, health care premiums will rise, and our roads, bridges and schools will continue to decay.


It should not go unnoticed that Republican leaders in Congress have already set their sights on “entitlement reform” — better known as cuts to Social Security and Medicare. So it is simple arithmetic — tax cuts for the wealthy will be paid for by cuts in those important programs.


By passing this bill, the president and congressional Republicans have shown that they will always prioritize millionaires, billionaires and large corporations over working families. The American people deserve better from their elected officials.

115th Congress: Education & the Workforce Greatest Hits

Championed Responsible Solutions

  • Raise the Wage Act – a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 by 2024 and give more than 41 million Americans a pay increase.
  • Child Care for Working Families Act – a comprehensive early learning and child care bill to ensure affordable, high-quality child care for working families across the country.
  • Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act – legislation to strengthen enforcement under the National Labor Relations Act when workers exercise their right to join a union.
  • Rebuild America's Schools Act of 2017 – legislation that highlights the need for bold investment in school infrastructure as a means to achieve greater educational equity, while breathing new life into communities and creating jobs.
  • Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act  a bill to expand and permanently safeguard the Pell Grant program, helping millions of low-income students offset the rising costs of college.
  • Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2017 – legislation to expand employment opportunities for at-risk and opportunity youth and support community efforts to keep youth connected to school and training. 
  • HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act – a to bill to modify the HBCU Capital Financing Program and authorize the Department of Education to provide financial counseling that prepares an eligible HBCU to qualify for, apply for, and maintain a capital improvement loan.

Fought Against Harmful Rollbacks

  • Gainful Employment and Borrower Defense Rules – the Trump administration has delayed implementation of rules allowing career programs that do not lead to good-paying jobs to continue to market themselves to unsuspecting students, and delayed borrowers from receiving financial relief from student loan debt for which the Department of Education has determined they are not liable.
  • Tip Regulations – the Trump administration proposed a rule that would allow employers to take ownership of workers’ tips as long as the tipped employees are paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
  • Overtime Rule – the Trump administration initiated a plan to rollback a 2016 rule that strengthened overtime protections for millions of full-time, salaried workers when they worked more than 40 hours per week. 
  • Americans' Retirement Security – Republican legislation nullified rules that enabled states and municipalities to expand retirement savings options, and Republicans joined the Trump administration in efforts to delay and weaken the fiduciary rule which requires that financial advisors provide retirement investment advice that’s in the worker’s best interest.
  • Contraceptive Coverage Rules – the Trump administration released new rules allowing virtually any employer or university to deny contraceptive coverage under the guise of moral or religious objections. 

Promoted Democratic Values

  • Aim Higher  – Committee Democrats launched an initiative focused on legislation that would provide all students with access to a meaningful degree that costs less money and leads to a good-paying job.
  • Better Deal  – House and Senate Democrats worked to give Americans the tools they need to thrive and empower families and workers, and to unlock economic growth that will lead to better jobs, better wages, and a better future.

Worked Across the Aisle

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