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News Every Day |

There's a Glaring Problem That Politicians Absolutely Cannot Ignore at the Debate

In all 50 states of the U.S., child care costs more than housing — and in some cases, double. In every. Single. State.

Let that sink in for a moment.

According to a report released last month by nonprofit organization Child Care Aware of America, child care costs for two children are at least 25% higher than average rent payments across the U.S., with eight states and Washington D.C. seeing prices more than twice the rent.

When my own kids were little, I was a stay-at-home mom: not because I wanted to be, necessarily, but because the cost of daycare would’ve eaten up any salary I would have earned, so I’d essentially have been away from my children all day just to break even. And this was over a decade ago — my kids are currently in junior high and high school — so if that was my reality even back then, it seems nearly impossible for parents to get ahead right now. Especially if they have more than one child. And especially if they have four of them, like I do.

America’s child care crisis was made exponentially worse by the end of ARPA: a bill that threw the child care sector a lifeline, with grants helping providers reopen safely post-pandemic, and boosts in funding making care more affordable for families. But despite the dire consequences the country has faced since ARPA’s expiration, politicians are doing far too little to address it — let alone to rectify the situation. And for a public service that is just as essential as all the other public services entirely funded by taxpayers, child care is deserving of a far bigger (and long overdue!) conversation.

“There is no meaningful debate over ‘affordable’ public schools, ‘affordable’ libraries, ‘affordable’ parks, ‘affordable’ streets, or ‘affordable’ fire departments; most people seem to take for granted the fact that they are free,” says Elliot Haspel for The Atlantic. “Yet most politicians aren’t striving to make child care free; they’re striving to make it affordable. This framing accepts the damaging premise that child care should be a private market commodity. It’s time we instead see child care as the vital service it is — one that undergirds national prosperity and should be universal and free.”

In response to the deafening silence from politicians on this critical issue, one group is elevating the demand to be heard. Moms First is a national nonprofit organization working to enact sweeping changes on three levels: in workplaces, they push companies to be more accommodating to mothers. They build a community of moms to advocate for themselves and for mothers in general. Finally, they work to change how society views mothers, highlighting their contributions and the importance of supporting them. Ahead of tomorrow’s presidential debate, Moms First has petitioned CNN to bring child care center stage for the event; the petition, garnering more than 13,700 signatures from concerned moms and supporters, was delivered just this morning.

“For too long, child care has been seen as a personal issue that moms must solve on their own — not as an economic issue that is required for women to work. The reality is, child care impacts all of us. And today, by delivering over 13,000 signatures to CNN, we want to ensure that childcare is at the top of any President’s agenda,” Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Moms First, tells SheKnows. “No family should go bankrupt to pay for childcare. As we await the first presidential debate tomorrow night, it’s clear the voices of moms across the country matter. And we deserve answers on child care.” 

It’s sad that a petition was even needed, considering that data shows child care is — as it should be — a critical issue this election year. According to the 2024 Cost of Care Report from Care.com, “Almost all parents who responded (88%) say a candidate’s position on child care policy will influence their vote, and a majority of respondents (59%) say child care access and affordability policy is among the top three issues that will impact their voting decision.” Many parents are actually going into debt in order to afford child care. This is not sustainable for anyone, and parents need answers.

“The extreme cost of child care is crushing moms all over the country,” Moms First says on its website. “Child care for two children costs more than rent in every U.S. state. 50% of Americans live in child care deserts. And 59% of parents with young kids have been forced to reduce their work hours or quit their jobs due to the exorbitant expenses of child care.” Hopefully the Moms First petition will attract much-deserved attention to the very real issue that politicians are adept at glossing over. For now, it’s in the hands of the CNN moderators — but beyond that, it will be back in the hands of the American people, because we are the only ones who can make a lasting difference by how we vote.

Petition: signed. And now, we wait.

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