Biden’s American Families Plan
I came in like a wrecking ball—of progressive social plans
Hooray! We did it!
Ok, just kidding. I was so excited to read* last week that Biden proposed universal Pre-K for 3-4 year olds. The American Families Plan will spend $200 billion on free universal child care, and will be paid for by an increased tax for the rich.
It’s a start. It’s a big start.
But like any government proposal, there are flaws with the program. First of all, states have to agree to the program.
I have hope that my home state of Tennessee will agree to build out the programs, but I also know that the Republican-held state legislature and governor will likely balk.
I can already see the talking points the detractors will use:
Mothers and families should be in charge of the education of young children
Mothers and families should have a choice in the education of their young children, like the adults who go to community college have choice in which school they attend
We don’t want to take federal money, because that makes us beholden to the federal government
Why not give families direct payouts? (I will get back to this dumb argument in just a sec)
Of course there are these talking points, but in the end, universal pre-K is not compulsory pre-K. No one would force any family to go to these pre-K programs. No one says you have to put your child in Pre-K at a local public school vs. a private Pre-K program. If you want to continue to pay out the nose for childcare, you can go ahead and do that.
As for the argument that we should be giving families direct payouts—like, what? Okay, yes. Sure, it sounds good on the surface. Give money to families to pay for the childcare they need, like food and at-will childcare and supplies to teach their children at home. But that’s an entirely separate issue than the one at hand. What we’re talking about here is universal access to quality pre-Kindergarten education, not support for families in need. What unnerves me about the people who make these arguments is that they are the same people who say that family support programs are a waste of money or who balk at welfare initiatives. I have very little patience for these arguments.
A promise for better?
The one shining ray of hope in all of this is that Tennessee has for several years had a successful free community college and technical school program called Tennessee Promise. That program gives money to high school seniors and actual over-55 seniors to get or finish a degree at a community or technical college. Yay, Tennessee!
The impact of universal pre-K
But back to the pre-K programs. These kinds of public pre-K programs and proposals are exactly what we need to level the playing field for the families that cannot pay for their children to go to private Pre-K.
And yes, we will continue to have the problems of underfunded school districts that aren’t able to offer kids the education that the higher income areas might.
But this is a start. We have to start somewhere.
I would love it if the plan provided free public childcare and early childhood education for every child in the US from infancy, but I’ll take what I can get. We live in a world where everything is polarized and politicized, and to make small changes and get small wins is something to be celebrated.
Offering two free years of community college is a step toward free university education for all. The ACA was a step toward free universal health care. Covid relief funding and improved unemployment payouts are a step toward more progressive minimum wage policies.
So I’m celebrating. It’s a little early, we’ve got a long way to go, but I want to swing this wrecking ball of progress for as long as I can.
*call it what you want, I still cannot watch political speeches. I like Biden, I like listening to him speak, but I don’t listen to these things to preserve my mental health.
Thank you for making it this far. In gratitude, I give you this portrait of progressive politics, as I see it. Only you can define art for yourself. This is how I define it.
It’ll soon be available as an NFT.