Why America Never Had Universal Child Care – New Republic

By Nancy L. Cohen, Apr. 24, 2013

The fix for America’s broken family policy is obvious: a universal, federally financed and regulated child care system. The aggravating fact is we almost had it. More than forty years ago.

The U.S. ranks third to last among OECD countries on public spending on family benefits. That we lack anything resembling a 21st century family policy is not an oversight. It is not because American society refuses to come to grips with the reality of working mothers. Rather, it is the result of a political hijacking so fabulously successful it wiped away virtually any trace of its own handiwork.

In 1971, Congress passed the Comprehensive Child Development Act on a bipartisan vote. Co-sponsored by Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale and Indiana Representative John Brademas, the act established a network of nationally funded, locally administered, comprehensive child care centers, which were to provide quality education, nutrition, and medical services. Mondale viewed the measure as a first step toward universal childcare. Wanting “to avoid typing it as a poor person’s program,” Mondale later explained, the centers were to be open to all on a sliding scale basis. Congress authorized real money for the program—in today’s dollars, the equivalent of five times the 2012 federal budget for Head Start.

But President Richard Nixon vetoed it. Declaring the Comprehensive Child Development Act to be “a long leap into the dark,” Nixon ominously warned that it would “commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against the family-centered approach.”  Read the full article at the New Republic

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Nancy L. Cohen