Filling the Void: Presidential Candidates’ Proposals for Education – Part 1

October 6, 2016

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Jessica Landgraf

Following the first presidential debate, there has been some criticism of the lack of discussion about educational issues. But for me, as someone particularly interested in early childhood education and care, I was pleasantly surprised by the multiple (albeit brief) mentions of family leave and childcare expenses. This issue is well supported by research as one that deserves more attention and merits increased investment.

Each candidate has outlined a proposal for making childcare more affordable to families. Donald Trump’s proposal consists of tax-deductible childcare costs and an expanded low-income family earned income tax credit of up to $1,200. Hilary Clinton, in contrast, proposes an increase in funding for public childcare facilities, childcare tax-credits for low- and middle-income households, and capping the amount any family can pay for childcare at 10% of their household income.

In addition to childcare, both candidates gave a short description of their maternity leave proposals. In Trump’s plan, maternity leave would last six weeks and all wages would be paid through the unemployment insurance system. In Clinton’s plan, maternity leave would last twelve weeks, would apply to both fathers and mothers, and up to two-thirds of regular wages would be provided for the duration.

Even when looked at by someone who doesn’t have children and has never had to pay childcare costs, it is easy to assume that both of these proposals would have hefty price tags attached. It has been estimated that both Trump and Clinton’s plans would cost upwards of $500 billion over the course of ten years. This may seem like an enormous price tag, but considering that the United States spends significantly less on the financial support of childcare than other countries, it may be more reasonable than you think initially.

Although this election has been less about the issues and more about the candidates, the issue of childcare costs and how the government is helping to ensure all children are able to access high quality options is one that we all need to be talking about. Childcare costs are on the rise and higher quality costs more. Depending on the number and age of children in care and one’s level of income, childcare could consume a significant portion of a family’s monthly wages. Considering that a year of childcare often costs more than a year of public university tuition, something needs to be done. This is especially true when we think about the debt that college students are now being saddled with, but more on that next week.

Let’s all be more aware of the issue of childcare and family leave when they come up in the next several debates, and keep your ears open for discussion of college debt too. I will talk more on that topic in the weeks to come.

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