CBS6: Why Virginia Congresswoman thinks prekindergarten could be free

CBS6, MELISSA HIPOLIT

As Democrats hammer out a massive $1.75 trillion social spending bill in Washington, local Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) said she believes free pre-k for 3 and 4-year-olds will become a reality.

If the bill passes both the House and the Senate where Democrats have majorities, Spanberger said the government would send money to the states that apply and meet requirements.

The states would then give subgrants to preschool providers.

Among the requirements: matching funds, and plans that show how the state would implement universal, high-quality and free preschool services.

The program would end in 2027, as currently written in the draft legislation.

“These dollars would be eligible for families who choose to have their children in a preschool at the local community center, local church or local daycare center, those existing preschool programs would be folded into this,” Spanberger said.

Republicans, however, opposed the measure.

“Their bill would give Democrats and bureaucrats massive new authority that they could use to shape curriculum and standards nationwide. If providers don’t play along they could be left out in the cold,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Spanberger also said an extension of the refundable child tax credit will get approved.

Families became eligible to receive an enhanced child tax credit each month in July of this year. Spanberger said the bill would end the enhanced dollar amounts in 2022, but allow the pre-pandemic level payments to continue to be sent to families each month.

“We’ve heard from people I represent across central Virginia that this refundable child tax credit has been vital to their ability to pay for childcare and preschool,” Spanberger said.

Spanberger said the bill would also provide funding to help childcare providers get and retain staff.

“Certainly around Central Virginia, we have had issues of a labor shortage as it relates to childcare workers,” Spanberger said.

And, finally, the legislation would cap the percentage of a family’s income they would have to pay on childcare at seven percent, but families would have to fall within a certain income bracket to qualify, and Spanberger said this is subject to change.

“This should be a targeted program toward working, middle-class families certainly, the cost of childcare can be prohibitively expensive for many two-parent households,” Spanberger said.

Another sticking point with Republicans, who argue Democrats only want to help families where both parents work.

“Has your family made a different set of sacrifices so a father or mother can parent full time? Sorry Democrats want to redistribute money away from your family, to other households that earn even more money,” McConnell said.

Republicans also argue the childcare aspects of the legislation cost far too much.

“The estimate is that all this government meddling will cost $400 billion over just the first several years,” McConnell said.

As for paid family and medical leave, Democrats initially took it out of the bill a couple of weeks ago, but they put it back in and want to offer people four weeks of paid leave.

However, Congresswoman Spanberger said it may not be included in the final package after the legislation is debated in the Senate.

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