Democratic candidate for governor and Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City) released a plan central to her campaign last Friday that seeks to provide affordable and quality child care for every family with a kid under the age of five by 2025.
Under McClellan’s Universal Child Care & Early Learning Plan, Virginia families that make below or up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level would receive free child care, no matter the family size. While families making above that poverty threshold would have to pay for child care costs, but no more than 7 percent of their annual income.
“I think it’s critical for a couple of [reasons],” McClellan told The Virginia Star. “One, the equity gap in education begins at birth, so if you are ever going to address inequity in education, you’ve got to address early childhood education. Two, child care in itself is a critical component to economic development; I think at least 40 percent of workers are parents and, before COVID, there wasn’t enough quality, affordable child care or early childhood education.”
McClellan also said that the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these issues in Virginia.
Another part of the plan is to get child care and early learning recognized as a public necessity that will be affordable and accessible for all Virginia families, and establish a new statewide child care system that would create more than 80,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.
Nevertheless, the plan would not come cheap. It calls for a historic $4 billion investment to be made in order to accomplish everything the plan outlines.
McClellan told The Star that funding would come from a combination of different sources.
Funding would come from the state budget general fund, investments in early childhood education and the child care workforce included in President Joe Biden’s platform as well as Governor Ralph Northam’s marijuana legalization bill where some sales revenue is earmarked for preschool education, McClellan said.
In an emailed press release, McClellan’s campaign noted that universal child care and early learning is just the first out of a three part plan to invest in Virginia’s education system from birth through employment.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Virginia ranks 10th out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. for most expensive infant care at an average of $14,063 annually. Furthermore, infant care costs for just one child take up 18.2 percent of a median family’s income ($77,325) in Virginia.
With this move by McClellan, it is clear that education will play a central part in the Democratic nomination for governor. Back in December, Terry McAuliffe announced his re-election campaign in front of a Richmond public school and called for an annual $2 billion investment in education to increase teacher pay, ensure internet access for every student and address inequalities within school systems.
Joining McClellan and McAuliffe for the party nomination is Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy – who gave up her seat in the legislature to focus solely on the race – and Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas).
“Early childhood education and childcare in general are critical components to our education system and economic development and it’s time we acknowledge that,” McClellan said.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Matheus Gonçalves CC BY-SA 2.0.