WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today announced legislation that would make critical investments in child care and early childhood educators at community colleges and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The Preparing and Resourcing Our Student Parents and Early Childhood Teachers (PROSPECT) Act would establish competitive grants for community colleges and MSIs, so they could become incubators for infant and toddler child care talent, training, and access. The legislation would provide free, high-quality infant and toddler child care to student parents at grantee institutions, as well as address an immediate, demonstrated need to build the capacity and quality of the infant-toddler educator workforce. The bill would also make more students eligible for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) subsidy and require all colleges to share information on the Dependent Care Allowance with students. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are original co-sponsors of the legislation and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT) leads companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Today’s college students are faced with realities that are very different than the idyllic assumptions we have of them,” Booker said. “Millions are raising kids and have enrolled in college to improve their life circumstances for their children, but too many are forced to drop out because quality child care is unavailable or unaffordable, leaving them without a degree and saddled with student debt. This legislation will address this crisis by investing in campus child care and infant-toddler educator preparation programs, making our college campuses better equipped to help today’s students succeed.”
One in five college students are parents and face unique challenges to obtaining a degree, including accessing child care on campus. The majority of these students are people of color and have children who are preschool-aged or younger. The number of public colleges and universities with child care on campus has been steadily declining since 2002, with the sharpest drops at community colleges. Student parents make up 40 percent of black women, 36 percent of Native American women, and 26 percent of Latinas attending college. More than two thirds of student parents live below 200 percent of the poverty line. They also carry nearly double the student loan debt and are 20% more likely to leave college without a degree than students without children.
There is also an urgent need to grow, strengthen, and diversify the pipeline of infant and toddler educators. A recent survey found that 83% of parents with a child under age 5 responded that finding quality, affordable child care was a serious problem in their area. In New Jersey, three out of four infants and toddlers do not have access to high-quality child care, and only half of community colleges have child care on campus.
The brain grows at a faster rate between birth and age three than at any later point in life, underscoring the importance of high-quality infant and toddler care. And decades of research shows that children under age three that receive quality child care are more likely to have the behavioral, cognitive, and language skills development necessary for success in school, college, and life. Access to reliable, affordable child care also empowers parents and guardians to work, attend school, and care for other family members.
Strengthening the pipeline of child care educators and expanding access to quality, affordable child care are top priorities for Booker. This Congress, Booker introduced the RAISE Act, which would make educators, including early childhood educators, eligible for as much as $11,500 in tax credits. Booker is also an original co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act and the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act.
The PROSPECT Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Advocates for Children of NJ (ACNJ), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Child Care Aware of America, Child Care Aware NJ (CCANJ), CLASP, New Jersey Coalition of Infant/Toddler Educators (CITE), Education Reform Now – Advocacy, Generation Hope, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Black Child Development Institute, National Women's Law Center (NWLC), New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children (NJAEYC), New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC), Public Advocacy for Kids, UNCF, UnidosUS, and Zero to Three.
What advocates are saying about the PROSPECT Act:
“Senator Cory Booker’s bill addresses two essential family needs - the cost of child care, and the need to meet the appetite children have to learn and thrive,” Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said. “Children are always learning, particularly in the months and first few years of life, which means finding ways to help nurture this learning will help the children who receive that. At the same time child care costs pose an undue burden for working parents that immediately hamstring kids whose parents work to earn a living. Child care for infants and toddlers costs parents roughly 60 percent more than child care for a 3- or 4-year-old. Finding and affording child care is even harder for parents who are in college themselves. Sen. Booker’s Preparing and Resourcing Our Student Parents and Early Childhood Teachers Act takes bold steps to address the reality that in today’s economy, most parents are working parents, and many are also in school. It will make infant and toddler child care more affordable and accessible on college campuses, enabling student parents to finish their degrees and access a better a better life for their families. By funding high-quality child care programs with well prepared and compensated early childhood educators, this bill helps parents and educators address take care of themselves, and their families.”
“Latinos are enrolling in college in record numbers. But support services are needed to help them finish on time, such as expanded access to quality early childhood education for student-parents,” Eric Rodriguez, Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy of UnidosUS, said. “The PROSPECT Act will lift up entire families by expanding child care at college campuses, helping with college completion and providing young children a strong start in early education and life.”
“Every student deserves a fair chance at completing a college degree and pursuing their American Dream,” Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO of UNCF, said. “This is something that HBCUs know all too well given their unique mission and continued efforts to ensure that our neediest of students are not ignored. The PROSPECT Act builds on the invaluable approach lead by HBCUs to make sure students with children are also taken care of and able to achieve their dreams. UNCF is proud to support such common-sense legislation and urges Congress to act swiftly and pass the PROSPECT Act.”
“We applaud Senator Booker for introducing the PROSPECT ACT - which will expand access to high-quality, affordable child care - and double down on a national priority that advances gender justice and benefits all of us,” Fatima Goss Graves, President & CEO of National Women’s Law Center, said. “Right now, inadequate investments means that our child care system does not meet the needs of children, families, or early educators. We need bold, transformative change and the public investments to match. We must ensure that all families have access to high-quality, affordable child care and that the workers caring for our children—most of whom are women of color—receive fair wages and support. The PROSPECT ACT encompasses all of these priorities, as well as access to high-quality, affordable child care for parents in college with young children. This bill is an essential building block in a vision and value we all should share—child care for all.”
“The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is proud to support Senator Booker’s PROSPECT Act, an important step forward in increasing access to high-quality affordable child care for children and families and supporting and building a diverse child care workforce,” Olivia Golden, executive director of CLASP, said. “High-quality child care promotes the emotional and social well-being of infants and toddlers and enables their parents or caregivers to enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs. Given that 1 in 5 U.S. undergraduates – a significant share of whom are women of color - are parenting, expanding access to child care for infants and toddlers is crucial to promote student-parents’ success, as well as racial and gender equity. We applaud Senator Booker for recognizing the importance of increasing child care access on college campuses and strengthening the workforce for infant and toddler care.”
“As child care resource and referral agencies, we have on-the-ground experience working with families to find and afford child care. In our work with child care providers, we see the difference that on site support can make to ensure that child care providers best promote the healthy development of children,” Sister Donna Minster, President of Child Care Aware of New Jersey, said. “The PROSPECT Act will help fill multiple child care gaps – helping to expand the supply of infant and toddler care, helping to promote high-quality infant and toddler care, and helping to build an early educator workforce pipeline. Among the innovative ideas in the bill, we are excited to support potential CCR&R staffed family child care networks providing a hub of support for home-based providers who offer infant and toddler care."
“In 1999, I started as a full time freshman and teen mother at the College of William & Mary, struggling to find childcare for my three-month-old daughter while adapting to the new world of college and the academic rigor of a prestigious school,” Nicole Lynn Lewis, Founder and CEO of Generation Hope, said. "I founded Generation Hope in 2010 to ensure young, parenting college students have all of the supports that I lacked, and the PROSPECT Act builds upon this work in an innovative way by providing childcare and opportunities for students across the country who are working incredibly hard to become college graduates."
“Access to affordable and quality childcare is needed and a barrier that can be avoided for community college students and those attending MSIs,” Dr. Daria J. Willis, President of Everett Community College, said. “Funding to support student parents and their children will break the cycle of poverty in so many communities across the country, and it will level the playing field for thousands of students working to provide a better life for those they love the most. I fully support the PROSPECT Act as a community college president, former student parent at a MSI, and as a human being.”
“New Jersey’s 18 community colleges strongly applaud Senator Booker’s efforts to expand child care services for college students. The lack of reliable child care is a significant challenge for too many community college students who balance their commitment to their children with their pursuit of an education that will better their lives and that of their families. The PROSPECT Act is a significant investment in expanding economic opportunity for families in New Jersey and across the country.”—New Jersey Council of County Colleges