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Better child care for stronger families

One of the great privileges of serving North Carolinians in the United States Senate is helping to lead the bipartisan charge to build stronger families by strengthening early learning and child care.

For millions of families, especially single moms, child care is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity. To achieve the American Dream, families must have good-paying jobs, but with a career comes the need for safe and affordable child care during the work day. In North Carolina, the average cost of day care is nearly $7,000 a year. And that’s just for one child.

{mosads}In 2014, I worked with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to write and pass our bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. This landmark legislation provides child care assistance to low-income parents so that they can work and support their families. Last year, I was proud to be named the Early Learning Champion by the North Carolina Child Care Coalition for my work on this law.

In fact, this law has expanded access to affordable, safe, high quality child care for more than 1.5 million children and families.  It is enabling low-income working parents to have jobs and to start building their careers while also having the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in safe child care.

This law also makes sure that the teachers who care for our children are equipped with basic life-saving skills like CPR and are also trained to prepare our children for elementary school. It also requires child care providers to undergo criminal background checks, including a check to see whether the employees working with our children are on the sex offender registry. This is fundamental to assuring parents that their children are in safe hands.

Passing good policy is important, but it’s equally important to make sure that the laws Congress passes are being implemented effectively. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of chairing a Senate education committee hearing to examine how well this new law is working in North Carolina and throughout the country.

At that hearing we learned that because of my law, the state of Maryland has identified and fired 80 sex offenders who had been working with young children in day care facilities. In other words, my law resulted in the removal of dangerous sexual predators who had managed to get jobs working with children in day care centers.  Thanks to this law, our kids are now safer.

Passing my child care law was a great start, but Congress still needs to take action to address the challenges that middle-class families are currently facing. Families are still struggling to make ends meet, and I often hear from families who are paying more for daycare for their young children than they are on their mortgage.

That’s why I have teamed up with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) to introduce bipartisan legislation – the Promoting Affordable Child Care for Everyone Act – to help middle-class working families afford the high cost of child care. The PACE Act would expand flexible spending accounts and increase the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit so that low- and middle-income families can afford child care.

Military families, especially those in which both parents are serving our country, also struggle with the challenges of finding safe, affordable day care, but these families have the added stress of frequent deployments and being called into harm’s way. I am working to bring many of the same safety requirements, including criminal background checks, to military day care providers. Parents who are serving our country should never have to worry about whether their children are in safe hands.

I’m so proud of my bipartisan work to strengthen early learning and child care, and I will continue working to protect North Carolina’s working families in the United States Senate.

Sen. Richard Burr is a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Burr was named the Early Learning Champion by the North Carolina Child Care Coalition in 2015.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Tags Angus King Barbara Mikulski Richard Burr

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