WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, March 16th, Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA-05) joined her fellow Congressional Pre-K and Child Care Caucus co-chairs Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK-4), and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) for virtual kickoff event to relaunch the Caucus, highlight its goals, and reinforce the importance of early learning and care for children and families across the country. The event also featured the First Five Years Fund, PBS Kids, and the National Head Start Association, as well as a special appearance from PBS Kids star Donkey Hodie and Sara DeWitt, Senior Vice President for Children’s Media and Education for PBS Kids. Child care providers and experts were also at the event to share their insight and experience on the importance of high-quality, affordable early education.

“The work of the Pre-K and Child Care Caucus is more important than ever,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “The pandemic brought child care providers to the brink of collapse and left families in every state without access to care for their kids and parents unable to return to work. But the challenges facing our child care system existed long before COVID-19. We must seize this moment, and the bipartisan support united behind our Caucus, to build a care economy that ensures every child, every parent and our entire economy can thrive. As a co-founder and co-chair of the Caucus, I am eager to continue to build on our work and convey the power and importance of strong federal investments in the care economy while uplifting the voices and experiences of providers, early childhood educators, and families to help guide policy decisions.” 

The Caucus originally launched in 2016 to bring lawmakers, policy advocates, and pre-kindergarten/child care providers together to promote policies that expand access to high-quality pre-K and child care. The Caucus’ goals are to:

  • Examine early education priorities and child care programs to gain a deeper understanding of  the benefits of early childhood education and child care;

  • Explore best practice programs; and

  • Develop policy recommendations to improve and expand early education and child care.

“I speak now as a father of a six year old and an eight year old. The pandemic was very rough for all students, but especially for our younger students. I’m thinking of my son, who was four at the time the pandemic started and was trying to learn how to read at a very critical point in his own development. I watched him, and his classmates, and my daughter as they struggled to learn virtually, and watched what it means to have a very strong start in those very formative years of learning,” said Congressman Castro. “Expanding pre-K education is something that hopefully we can do in Congress in a bipartisan way, to make a meaningful and impactful difference in learning and the lives of our children in this country. I’m so glad that we’re able to work on this in a bipartisan way.

“This [Pre-K and child care] is an issue where Republicans and Democrats come together and try to solve problems we can identify together. This Caucus should be a shining example of where bipartisanship is working,” said Congressman Davis. 

“For several Congresses, the bipartisan Pre-K and Child Care Caucus, and its co-chairs, have provided a platform for Members of Congress to gather, learn more about these early years and provide leadership to their colleagues in lifting up the importance of early learning and care,” said First Five Years Fund Executive Director Sarah Rittling.

During the Caucus kickoff, attendees heard from early education experts including Dr. Mary Jane Miller-Baker, Senior Director of Early Childhood for the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, Vicki Wilson, Principal of Homer Elementary School in Byng, Oklahoma, and Mayra Rosado, Senior Director, Family Child Care at Nurtury Early Education in Massachusetts. They shared stories from their communities and schools about the importance of early learning and care, and why federal action on early learning is so important. 

Assistant Speaker Clark is a leader in the fight for universal pre-k and affordable, quality child care. Last year, Clark helped secure $40 billion in child care relief funding in the American Rescue Plan to keep child care and Head Start programs open, helping child care providers to stay afloat, get parents to get back to work, and ensure that businesses can still thrive during the pandemic. Earlier this month, she led a letter to President Joe Biden urging his Administration to include child care providers in their plan to increase access to COVID-19 testing and N95 and KN-95 masks across the country. Clark is also the author of the Child Care is Infrastructure Act, a comprehensive child care package that makes critical investments in child care facilities and the early education workforce.