CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited a child care center in Cary Thursday as the Biden administration tries to build support for a plan to offer free preschool to three- and four-year-old kids.
He and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) got a tour of Bright Beginnings Child Development Center, talking with parents and teachers about the impact of preschool on setting up kids to be successful later in life. Some parents also talked about the challenges of affording child care for their kids.
Mikayla Laureano’s daughter Gianna attends Bright Beginnings. She travels 30 minutes from their home because she’s seen what an impact the school has had on Gianna.
“PreK for me has been critical to make sure she’s ready for kindergarten, big school,” Laureano said.
Before Gianna started at Bright Beginnings, Laureano said it was a challenge to afford care for her daughter.
“I felt like I worked just to pay for daycare,” she said. “My husband’s paycheck would pay our bills, and my paycheck would pay for education, for them to go to daycare.”
The Biden administration’s universal preschool proposal is part of the larger $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. That also includes free community college and paid family leave policies.
“It costs more not to do it. We know when children are offered quality three-and-four-year-old programs, their ability to succeed in school and go on to higher-level courses is there. The research is there,” said Sec. Cardona. “I think what it does, it not only helps our students, it helps our communities, it helps our economy.”
The Biden administration says the free preschool proposal would cost about $200 billion. President Biden aims to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to pay for the broader American Families Plan.
Nationally, the administration says the program would benefit five million kids and save the average family $13,000.
All employees who are part of the program would have to be paid a minimum of $15 per hour.
Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the conservative John Locke Foundation, said the program should be more targeted to low-income and single-parent households.
“And, I think that there’s a lot of states that are taking that approach knowing that you get the most bang for your buck doing it that way rather than providing PreK for parents that can afford it,” he said. “Universal PreK sounds good until you realize that taxpayers, including taxpayers that keep their children at home, are subsidizing preschool for those who would otherwise be able to afford it.”
According to the non-profit myFutureNC, 53 percent of eligible four-year-olds in North Carolina are enrolled in the public NC Pre-K program. The state has set a goal of 75 percent by 2030.
“The emphasis on early childhood is critical. PreK is critical. We want universal PreK,” said Gov. Cooper. “Legislators in both parties have begun to realize the importance of childcare to our economy because it enables parents to be able to work.”