The Senate is expected to take up a bill Wednesday that will ask states to increase how much they spend on professional development and training for the early childhood workers.
If passed, it would be the second reauthorization of a federal program that provides vouchers to low-income families to subsidize childcare costs.
When the Child Care and Development Block Grant was first passed in 1990, providing access for low-income children to childcare was seen as critical so parents could work or go to school.
"We've learned so much more about children's needs" since then, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md), co-author of the reauthorization bill, said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.
Reflecting an increasing awareness that the quality of that childcare is crucial, the bill would require states to increase how much they spend on training, from the current 4 percent to 10 percent of the program expenditures in 2018.
The program is a pass-through grant, based on the number of children in the state who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The bill seeks to ensure stability and continuity of childcare for families by allowing parents to keep their vouchers despite fluctuations in personal income.
Matthew Melmed, executive Director of the national advocacy group ZERO TO THREE, said in a statement, he was heartened to see some money was set aside for improving the quality of care for infant and toddlers – which he said are oft forgotten in the growing chorus that sees preschool as the start of early education. About one in three children in the voucher program are infants and toddlers, he said.