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Sen. Patty Murray wants to fix what experts call ‘enormous inequalities’ in child care

October 11, 2017
Paige Cornwell
The Seattle Times

The Seattle Times’ Education Lab spoke with the authors of “Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality,” a book that outlines a plan to boost early learning in the United States.

Benji lives in a South Seattle neighborhood with his parents, who work at a nonprofit organization and a local school district. With a combined income of $72,000, his family isn’t poor. But when it came time for Benji’s parents to find child care for him, the cheapest option was $10,000 a year. So while they wanted to send him to a place where he could play with and learn from other kids, Benji went to his grandmother’s house.

The story of Benji is one of hundreds compiled by researchers who wrote “Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality,” which outlines a strategy to fix what they say is an early-learning and child-care crisis . (The researchers used pseudonyms for all their participants, including Benji.)

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, says she has also heard countless stories of families who can’t afford child care, which motivated her to craft a new bill that she discussed Monday at the Redmond YWCA, with two of the book’s authors at her side.

Murray’s bill would add more affordable child-care options, support universal preschool programs and increase compensation for child-care workers. She introduced it this past month, with strong support from Democrats but none yet from Republicans.

“Too many people are paying more than they can (for child care),” Murray said Monday. “It’s a family issue, it’s a community issue, it’s a national issue.”