Strengthening Child Care and Early Education: Learning from COVID-19

A joint project of New America’s Early and Elementary Education Policy Program and Better Life Lab
June 29, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic raging throughout the United States and the world has shone a harsh spotlight on just how essential child care and early learning is, as well as how far we have to go to create a high-quality, accessible and affordable system that works for child care providers, educators and families. The crisis has made clear that we must fundamentally rethink the ways we educate young children and support families in the United States.

Child care providers, who operate on razor-thin margins already, are struggling to stay in business, serve essential workers with young children, and find adequate cleaning supplies. Many early childhood educators, working with children birth-to-five, who, on average, earn poverty wages in the best of times, are out of work. And, others, including those teaching children in preK-3rd grade are working to find creative ways to educate young children at home. And parents, who shoulder the bulk of the cost for care and pay more out of pocket than parents in other advanced economies, are scrambling to combine work,care, and learning on their own. Policymakers, who have underinvested in child care and education for decades, have yet to commit to providing sufficient funds to shore it up in coronavirus relief packages. And even with so many schools, child care centers, and family child care homes still closed, some states are seeking to reopen and compel workers to return to work without giving much thought to who will care for their children.

To that end, New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy program and the Better Life Lab—the work-life, gender equity and social policy program—have joined forces to track the impact of the pandemic on an already fragile system. In this collection of stories, profiles, podcasts, videos, and essays, we seek to:

  • Elevate the voices of those most affected, including caregivers and educators.
  • Highlight how and why policy solutions and return to work scenarios must include robust investment in child care and early learning.
  • Share lessons from families, communities, advocates and policymakers on the kind of system we need to create.
  • Showcase how essential the care economy is to the healthy functioning of the country and the ability of businesses, workers, families and children to thrive.

Do you or someone you know have a story to tell or a perspective to share? Fill out this form. We will be featuring some of these glimpses into the lives of child care and early care teachers, families, administrators, advocates and policy leaders in the newsletters of both the Early & Elementary Education Policy Program and the Better Life Lab, Your Life, Better. We may select some of these stories for additional reporting to include in this COVID19 and Child Care/ Early Care and Learning Special Collection.