Support Inclusive Child Care and Universal PreK Provisions in the Build Back Better Act

View PDF of this letter here.

November 19, 2021

Expand Access to High Quality Early Care and Education for All Children and Families: Support Inclusive Child Care and Universal PreK Provisions in the Build Back Better Act

Dear Representative,

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 97 undersigned organizations, we strongly urge you to support the Build Back Better Act’s inclusion of Child Care and Universal Pre-Kindergarten along with the explicit federal non-discrimination language accompanying the provisions. These new federal funds have the power to transform the lives of young children, their families, and others who care for them.

The Build Back Better proposal builds on the educational opportunity offered by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 and helps to provide a strong foundation for our youngest residents. The pandemic brought to light how essential child care and early learning are to our country, while also revealing profound flaws and disparities. We know that America’s existing child care market is unsustainable. Most parents can’t afford the price of care, and too many families live in areas without access to quality care options at all. Further, most providers can only charge what families in their area can afford, which often translates to near-poverty wages for early educators. Addressing these present and ongoing challenges requires a comprehensive approach to securing ample child care supply and capacity, while ensuring there are quality options available for all families when and where they need them.

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, Congress has made a commitment that federal funds would not be used to discriminate.[1] Not only will Build Back Better advance racial, gender, disability, and economic justice by ensuring families have access to the care they need and that providers (overwhelmingly women and disproportionately women of color) are treated more fairly, we are greatly heartened that the proposal includes an explicit confirmation – consistent with decades of precedent – that providers participating in federally funded programs, such as the child care and PreK programs in the Build Back Better Act,, may not discriminate. While these protections do not expand the scope of existing civil rights laws, they reinforce the commitment Congress has made since the Civil Rights Act’s 1964 passage. No child or their family should be denied the opportunity to participate in a federally funded program because of their race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, or religion.

Faith-based providers have long been and continue to be a critical part of our nation’s child care system and Build Back Better makes clear that faith-based providers are eligible to participate in the program. Indeed, families can choose religious providers and those providers that accept child care certificates can include religious content and programming in their services.[2] All providers must meet the same set of criteria, including state licensing rules and standard non-discrimination protections that ensure that all eligible families can access these vital services and that children are safe and well cared for.

As you face the opportunity and obligation to repair the harms of the COVID-19 crisis and remedy long-standing inequities in our country, we urge you to focus your effort and attention on ensuring that children, families, and early educators – especially those from marginalized backgrounds, have both the resources they need and the protections to which they are entitled to build back better for themselves, their communities, and our country. If you have any questions, please contact Liz King, education equity program senior director, at [email protected]

Sincerely,

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

National Women’s Law Center

Human Rights Campaign

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League)

Alliance of Baptists

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American Atheists

American Baptist Home Mission Societies

American Federation of Teachers

American Humanist Association

American Psychological Association

Association for University Centers on Disabilities

Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE)

Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation

Autism Society of America

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC)

Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Brain Injury Association of America

Center for Disability Rights

Center for Law and Social Policy

Center for Learner Equity

Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR)

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Child Care Aware of America

Church World Service

Coalition for Social Justice

CommunicationFIRST

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Council of Administrators of Special Education

Disability Concerns, Christian Reformed Church

Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC)

Easterseals

Equality California

Faith Commons

Faith in Public Life

Faithful America

Family Equality

Family Forward Oregon

Family Values @ Work Action

Freedom From Religion Foundation

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality

GLSEN

Hindu American Foundation

Hispanic Federation

Impact Fund

Interfaith Alliance

Justice for Migrant Women

Lake Oconee Community Church

Lambda Legal

Latter-day Saint Democrats of America

Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund

Los Angeles LGBT Center

Movement Advancement Project

Movements for Violence Prevention (MVP)

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE)

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Council of Churches USA

National Council of Jewish Women

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Employment Law Project

National Organization for Women

National Urban League

National Women’s Political Caucus

People For the American Way

PFLAG National

Secular Coalition For America

Silver State Equality

Sisters Lead Sisters Vote

Sojourners

Southern Christian Coalition

SPLC Action Fund

Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS)

Texas Impact

The Advocacy Institute

The Arc of the United States

The Education Trust

The Learning Disabilities Association of America

The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

T’ruah

UnidosUS

Union for Reform Judaism

United Church of Christ Justice and Local Church Ministries

Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice

Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice

YWCA USA

ZERO TO THREE

[1] Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 preceded the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Higher Education Act of 1965. Indeed, those expansions of elementary, secondary, and higher education would not have happened had Congress not prohibited the use of those funds to discriminate. Similarly, this expansion to serving the youngest children should follow on that same commitment.

[2] Federal funding for programs is provided under BBB through certificates, and grants. If religious providers participate in programs funded by grants, rather than certificates, any religious programming must be paid for solely by the provider and must be offered separately in time or space from the government-funded programming. For programs funded through certificates, religious programming does not need to be separated.