- Former Obama economist Betsey Stevenson told Insider affordable child care is long overdue.
- A lack of government funding for child care has deprived children of quality preschool education, she said.
- She used the example of student debt, arguing that 3-year-olds cannot take out loans to pay for their education like adults can.
Betsey Stevenson, one of the senior economic advisers to the last Democratic president, says the current president has a strong case for affordable child care: Children should have the same access to quality education as children. adults.
Last week, House Democrats unveiled a $ 761 billion investment plan to make child care more affordable, including universal kindergarten for ages 3 and 4. Stevenson, one of President Barack Obama’s top economic advisers, joined 126 other economists in urging Congress to make the investment a reality, as proposed by President Joe Biden.
Stevenson told Insider in an interview that this is long overdue and that children should not be deprived of a quality education simply because they have fewer economic rights than adults.
âStudents can take out loans to pay for their education, but it’s absolutely impossible to take out a loan to pay for your own kindergarten,â Stevenson said. âIt’s just not something that a 3 or 4 year old can do to manage their own education. So the idea that we have something that is as expensive as college and we don’t have any. The mechanism in place to fund it is why so few children have access to high quality preschool education. “
It’s a “fundamental funding problem,” Stevenson said, and it has cost the US economy $ 57 billion in lost revenue since the 1990s due to rising child care costs, according to the Council for a Strong America. The Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion social spending bill is a chance to address this by expanding a program that sends monthly checks to parents and caps the amount families must pay for child care.
âThe United States failed to make the changes necessary to support working families and I think that was one of our real vulnerabilities during COVID,â Stevenson said. “This is our opportunity for reform.”
The United States has created “a nation of underinvested children”
While preschoolers and kindergarteners can only be separated for one year, one is government funded and the other is not, creating a gap in the number of ‘children who register. And that gap isn’t because kindergarten is “much more beneficial than the year before kindergarten,” Stevenson said.
“This is because parents have to pay for kindergarten and kindergarten to be available in our public school system,” she said. “So what we have done is create a nation of children to be underinvested in, and that not only fuels our potential as an economy, but it fuels inequality as well.”
So, just a few years after birth, children’s education will depend on how much money their parents bring home. To make sure that’s not a factor, House Democrats have proposed a 7% cap on child care spending, meaning families would not spend more than 7% of their income. for childcare. Stevenson said this “makes a lot of sense” because people will only pay what they can afford instead of turning to cheaper, lower quality options.
Other Democratic proposals, like a $ 300 monthly child tax credit, are also on the table to keep children out of poverty and relieve low-income families, but face uncertainty as some Democrats Centrists suggest targeting this type of federal aid to low-income Americans.
But Stevenson, and other economists, the point remains: If a student can get a loan or scholarship to receive a quality education, a 3-year-old should be able to have the same opportunity.
“We should see government as representing children who will become future adults, and not just children who are owned by their parents and have no representation in government until they turn 18,” Stevenson said. “We should have a government that is doing what is best to invest in children.”