children and teacher

How to slash the cost of child care while raising workers’ wage to $15/hour

As the Fight for 15 movement keeps collecting wins, the “Make it Work” coalition is pushing to raise the wages of child care workers and preschool teachers next — while simultaneously reducing the skyrocketing costs of child care for families. At The Nation, Michelle Chen reports on their proposal:

The campaign, launched this week by the Make it Work coalition, lays out a multi-pronged proposal for making “high quality, flexible care more affordable and accessible for all families”. Through federal funding and workforce reforms, this would provide “Guaranteed childcare subsidies for middle-and low-income families… to ensure that child care costs no more than 10 percent of pay,” and wage floor for educators and caregivers of $15 an hour. Families would have access to public preschool for all three and four year-olds, with greater investment in early childhood programs like Head Start. The proposal was also boosted in a new House resolution by Representatives Keith Ellison, Bonamici and Raul Grijalva supporting the $15-an-hour minimum wage and federally funded expansion of childcare and educational programs.

The proposal, which would raise the number of kids receiving subsidies to 26 million from the current 1.5 million, would extend programs like Headstart to full-day services, providing more stable schedules for clients and staff that accommodate unstable or fulltime workdays. Workers would be able to draw on financial support for supplemental “education, training and professional development.” They would also be encouraged to join “professional organizations” to strengthen working conditions, potentially opening the door to unionization.

As Chen notes, the fact that this majority female workforce earns poverty-level wages — which haven’t increased for nearly two decades — “reflects a general undervaluing of care work.” And Make It Work’s proposal reflects the reality that this will not and cannot change without federal funding. Since this labor is unpaid when performed by parents — still typically mothers — within the home, when it is performed outside the home, it will be both underpaid and too expensive.

“As child care costs skyrocket, becoming out of reach for even middle class families, working men and women are forced to make impossible choices, that aren’t real choices at all,” Make it Work’s proposal notes. “Increasingly more and more women are opting out of the workplace to take care of a new child, in part because child care is just too expensive.” Meanwhile, workers are earning so little that they’re unable to provide the basics for [their] own children.”

The current status quo is thus driving both poverty and gender inequality, and only generous subsidies — to reduce the cost and raise the wage — will solve this structural dilemma.

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St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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