The need for increased child care access and quality have never been more important, and the child care industry has never been more fragile. The Biden administration’s signature domestic bill, Build Back Better, was the latest attempt by the federal government to increase both the number of child care providers and to ensure those providers offer safe and nurturing environments. But the bill was benched indefinitely in late December, when Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, raised concerns about the overall cost of the legislation.

Now, child care advocates hope the fractures exposed by the pandemic will focus public attention on creating some kind of government support for improving a child care system that is currently on the ropes.

“What we have is breaking us,” said Mary Beth Testa, a policy consultant with the National Association for Family Child Care. “Leaving things as they are is not the answer.”

Testa’s organization had been particularly enthusiastic about provisions in the bill that would have greatly expanded the number of children eligible for child care subsidies, and that would have required states to base those subsidies on the cost of providing high-quality care. Currently, most states link subsidies to the market rate of child care in a given community, but the market rate can be much lower than the actual cost of a high-quality program.

An increase in funding is necessary because quality improvement efforts have long been grossly underfunded, said Susan Hibbard, the executive director of the BUILD Initiative, a national organization that helps states create systems to measure child care quality. Without sufficient funds, some programs have not been able to survive. For example, in 2017 Mississippi discontinued its QRIS program, citing financial reasons. State QRIS can often end up funneling limited resources to child care programs that are already doing well, Hibbard said, rather than investing in programs that need support to improve.

Read the full article about funding high-quality childcare by Christina A. Samuels at The Hechinger Report.