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Teacher Amanda Morton reads a story to kindergarten students at Harlem Success Academy, a free, public elementary charter school March 30, 2009 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
It’s an idea that’s been kicked around for decades but one that has increasing relevance in the American economy of 2011, when families are still struggling with their finances and income inequality continues to grow at a rapid clip: the idea of providing free, universal access to childcare and early childhood education. Sen. Bernie Sanders has just introduced the “Foundations for Success Act” that would provide childcare and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten. Through a national competition among states, modeled closely after the “Race for the Top” competition for education funds, states would apply for federal grants and establish high standards for early child care and education. Sen. Sanders argues that giving this kind of access to care and education is essential for keeping the United States economically competitive to other countries and helping to speed along the economic recovery. Critics would content that, while the idea of universal childcare is nice, there is simply no way the country can afford it right now. Would the hefty investment in free childcare and early education pay off in the end for American families?
Dr. Cathy Grace, Director of Early Childhood Development for the Children’s Defense Fund, which is supporting Senator Bernie Sanders’s proposed early child care legislation
Lisa Snell, director of education & child welfare at the Reason Foundation