Democrats in Congress are working to pass federal support for universal pre-kindergarten and highly subsidized childcare without Republican support. But the policies will require bipartisan states to sign on in the first few years and a later federal government to extend the temporary policies. Will these initiatives be as polarizing as Obamacare or is this a popular policy destined to grow? Rachel VanSickle-Ward finds wide bipartisan public support for childcare policies and worker pay, despite elite polarization. Michael Little finds that Republican states took longer to adopt public pre-K, but that the vast majority eventually provided state funding. They both say to expect early partisanship but broad gains in early childhood education and the care economy. 

Guests: Rachel VanSickle-Ward, Pitzer College; Michael Little, North Carolina State University

Studies: “The Adoption of Public Pre-Kindergarten among the American States” and “Most Americans want Congress to support child care and elder care


Matt Grossmann: Childcare and pre-K expansion, consensus or polarization? This week on the Science of Politics. For the Niskanen Center, I’m Matt Grossman. Democrats in Congress are working to pass federal support for universal pre-kindergarten and highly subsidized childcare transforming the care economy. They’re not getting Republican support, but the policies will require bipartisan states to sign on in the first few years and a later federal government to extend the temporary policies. Will these initiatives be as polarizing as Obamacare? Or is this a popular policy destined to grow? This week, I talked to Rachel VanSickle-Ward of Pitzer College about her survey on public support for caregiving policy with Jennifer Merolla, Ivy Cargile, Jill Greenlee, and Sarah Hayes.

She finds wide bipartisan public support for childcare policies and support for childcare workers despite party polarization at the federal level. She says the post COVID debate offers a real opportunity. I also talked to Michael Little of North Carolina State University about his educational policy article with Lora Cohen-Vogel, James Sadler, Becca Merrill, and Chris Curran. The adoption of public pre-kindergarten among the American states. They find that Republican states took longer to adopt public pre-K, but that the vast majority eventually provided state funding. They both think adoption will start out partisan, but that the trends will favor strong public support for early childhood education. VanSickle-Ward and colleagues are investigating public support for caregiving aid.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: This survey is part of a bigger project about how caregiving informs politics from a number of perspectives. But the particular piece that we’ve just published a monkey cage article on is about the ways in which the public supports particular aspects of caregiving and sort of thinking about how that relates to the current Biden plan, the Build Back Better plan, which covers caregiving in addition to a number of other policies. So there’s kind of a few key takeaways. The first and maybe most straightforward is that there’s just a lot of support for caregiving programs. There’s support for caregiving programs, both in sort of broad strokes in terms of, do you think the government should provide care for the elderly or for children? And there’s also support when you break it down a little bit more into the finely grained details. So do you support aid for low income folks to have more access to childcare or do you support better pay for home healthcare workers, that kind of thing.

There is data from our results that there’s support across the board, there’s certainly more support among Democrats, which we can talk more about than there is among Republicans, but there is a sizable amount of support among Republicans as well. So that was one of the key takeaways from our first look at these findings is that there are sizable numbers of Republicans that support these policies, which you wouldn’t necessarily know if you just looked at sort of the elite level or congressional policy making because at the congressional level, there’s sort of zero support among Republicans.

And then another couple of key takeaways that we really thought were important to highlight. One, there’s particular support among communities of color. And obviously there’s just been a lot of good research that communities of color are hardest hit by the pandemic and that are experiencing particular hardships when it comes to care and there is really noticeable support for elder care. So that was one of the places where, in addition to having a noticeable number amount of Republican support, you also had even majorities of Republicans saying they supported elder care. So one thing that we’ve taken note of and one thing that we try and address in this project in general is a lot of times when we think about care, we tend to think about childcare and we really want to make sure that the elder care component is included as well.

Matt Grossmann: They found strong support for caregiving policies.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: We look at support for childcare and children, 84% of Democrats and 52% of Independents and 53.7% of Republicans agree that the government should fund summer meals and should expand school lunch programs. You also see when you’re looking at questions regarding upgrading childcare facilities and expanding them to areas of need, 81% of Democrats and 58.6% of Independents and 43.8% of Republicans support those. And then if you look at elder care, for example, when you ask the question, should we have policies that help people afford the cost of elder care or is helping people afford the cost of elder care not the rule of government? You see 73% of all respondents think the government should help families care for elders. And that includes 90% of Democrats, 57% of Republicans and 62% of Independents. So again, that’s an area where you really see pretty large majorities across the board.

Matt Grossmann: They started investigating after seeing the consequences of COVID.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: This is a pandemic project. This is something that the group of us came together on in thinking in really tangible ways about what the consequences of the pandemic are. And one thing we thought a lot about from a scholarly perspective is the way that the pandemic was affecting women. Obviously we’re all gender and politics scholars, but we’d also been really following the news that the consequences for caregivers and especially women during the pandemic were incredibly dire. And we really wanted to understand that on a deeper level.

There’s another dimension to this that each of us individually is a caretaker so we were just sort of living this day to day, and we also have a really broad interest in how all different types of identity like caregiving and how that intersects with gender and race and other forms of identity, how that shapes political outlook and political engagement on a whole number of dimensions. So this particular piece is about policy, but we also really wanted to look at how does experience with caregiving shape political engagement? How does it shape political ambition? Do caregivers have a particular perspective or particular skillset that informs not just their attitudes, but also how they participate in the political process? So there’s sort of a whole bunch of different pieces that we’re really hoping to put together.

Matt Grossmann: Congressional Republicans do not support the policies that their voters support.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: The Republicans in Congress that oppose Build Back Better are not really advocating for a separate standalone childcare bill, right? So it’s not like they’re willing to support that piece. They’ve really been pretty consistent in their opposition to that piece. So then we have to dig a little deeper and I think there is one element that has to do with the disconnect between popular support for the policies that we asked about and real advocacy around those policies on the Republican side. I know this is something that you look at in your work, right? When you think about how interest groups are coalesced around an issue. I think part of the issue is that on the Democratic side, there has been so much consistent advocacy and organization on these issues for years that that has just created a language and a dialogue and a sense of urgency around these issues.

And that doesn’t exist on the Republican side even though if you ask the public, they support it. And I think maybe the most troubling interpretation, which kind of intersects with some of those other elements, is that for a number of years, really dating back toward Obama’s presidency, the central organizing force of Republicans in Congress has been whenever possible, deny Democratic president any kind of a win. Sort of hardball politics, allow for no claiming a victory for Biden. And again, this is something that McConnell on the Senate side said very explicitly about Obama as well. We just can’t allow him any kind of a win. And because that is the organizing force among Republicans in Congress, it just doesn’t give them a lot of space to say, oh, well actually a decent number of Republicans support this part. Let’s engage to see how we can move this forward.

There just isn’t a lot of policy making space for that kind of conversation. And unfortunately that isn’t really new to childcare. This happened with the Affordable Care Act as well. So when I’ve done interviews on parts of the Affordable Care Act, staffers will tell me that Republicans maybe would show up in early days and then they got the message that you don’t negotiate any of it. You don’t participate at all. Our only response is to say no and deny the win. And again, I think that really explains on one level why you don’t see that support in Congress among Republicans, even though you see the support among the public.

Matt Grossmann: There is partisan divide on caregiving, but more so at the elite level.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: When we looked at this at the survey results, we were thinking like, what’s surprising about it, right? The fact that more Democrats than Republicans support this is not particularly surprising. It’s something we would expect from the ideological orientation and the democratic party. Yes, there are sort of internal variations there, but there is actually overwhelming support among Democrats, both in the public and in Congress for this program. When you think about that a little more, there actually is something kind of interesting about that because when you look at the coverage of the Build Back Better plan, a lot of the media coverage has been on supposedly internal fights amongst Democrats. On one hand that kind of makes sense because, given that Republicans were entirely in opposition to it at the congressional level, if you look at the process, interesting stuff was happening where there was a couple of democratic holdouts, Manchin and Sinema specifically. But if you take a step back and look at how many members of Congress that our Democrats supported it, overwhelming support.

And if you look at the public amongst democratic voters, again, overwhelming support. When you’re thinking about whether or not that makes this sort of a partisan issue or not, I would say, yes, there’s clear distinctions. Democrats in general are much more likely to support these programs than Republicans are. But I think if you look at how that maps onto policy making in Congress, there is just a lot more common support in the public than there is in Congress. So in part, this is a story that political scientists talk about a lot, that sometimes you see more polarization at the elite level or at the congressional level than you do in the public. But again, I also think it’s just a broader story about the way in which even though there are some Republican support for these policies that that just hasn’t been communicated in the same way or accepted in the same way among those representatives.

Matt Grossmann: Democrats have tried to frame the policies as infrastructure that contributes to the economy.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: When Biden first introduced this, he was very explicit that this component, what’s become Build Back Better, which includes a lot of the caregiving provisions was emphatically part of infrastructure, so this idea of human infrastructure. And when he gave early addresses about these programs, he was very careful and specific to use that framing. And that is new to the kind of the public stage, I would say. You haven’t seen a president frame it in quite that way before, but it’s not new to the ongoing sort of organizational or advocacy work around care. There’s been sort of decades of work in organizational spaces or in sort of feminist scholarship spaces to think about care work as really infrastructure. I think the significance of that is pretty striking. I mean, obviously the bill hasn’t passed yet, so we won’t know if it was a successful framing in terms of reaching policy success for a little while still.

But I do think it’s been successful in terms of elevating the conversation around care issues, so something worthy of sustained national debate. So I think what you’ve historically seen when you look at these issues is that too often they have been sidelined as sort of unimportant. And so when something is considered a woman’s issue or a children’s issue, somehow that is less critical or less significant or less worthy of national policy-making attention. And that has all sorts of consequences, both of course, for what actually happens to women and children in this country, but also for the advantages or disadvantages strategically of elected officials take up those issues. Is this going to be considered something really meaty and significant, or is it going to be sidelined as sort of a pet project? And one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot following these recent debates is, after the 2016 election, there was a lot of popular commentary around the idea of identity politics on the one hand and sort of “real issues” on the other hand.

And so one of the critiques of Clinton’s campaign after the 2016 election was that she focused too much on identity politics and not enough on [inaudible 00:13:13] sort of economic issues. And obviously a lot of scholars kind of unpacked that and found that to be a little limited, to say the least, so there is good data that she talked a ton about economic policies, but she did frame economic policies in terms of how they affected particular groups like women, like communities of color. And so one sort of element that I’ve seen in this current debate is that I think it is helping us move away from that kind of false dichotomy of identity politics on one hand and sort of real significant economic policy-making on the other. And I think it’s helping us understand that those things are fundamentally intertwined.

Matt Grossmann: So how will this go in the states? Little and his colleagues found that partisanship and institutional factors mattered for state adoption of state funded Pre-K.

Michael Little: So in this study, our goal was to understand the various factors that predict whether or not a state would adopt a public pre-kindergarten program. And we did so through a method called event history analysis, and we found that there were four key factors that were important predictors of adoption. From a political perspective, there were two particular factors that stood out. The first is that the more Republicans if there were in a state legislature, the less likely the state was to adopt a public pre-kindergarten policy. And the other political factor is that the more professional a legislature is, so that is the higher the legislatures are paid, the length of the session, et cetera, the more likely adoption is.

Another category of factors we explored with from the economic perspective. And here we found that the higher the state unemployment rate, the more likely adoption was. And then last from a geographic diffusion perspective, we found that more states in a particular census region, having had a pre-K program led other states to be more likely to adopt a program.

Matt Grossmann: State funded pre-K is common, but quite varied.

Michael Little: 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted state funded pre-K programs. And it’s important to note that these state programs are but one piece of a patchwork early childhood education system, which includes federal Head Start programs, municipal pre-K programs and subsidized childcare via the Childcare Development Block Grant, for example. With that being said, state funded pre-K programs vary dramatically from state to state in terms of both access and quality. So Florida, Vermont, and DC are the states and localities that offer truly universal pre-K programs, meaning there are no funding or enrollment caps. And an additional seven states offer mostly universal pre-K programs, which include Oklahoma, West Virginia, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New York, and Wisconsin. And now the remaining states with pre-K programs are considered targeted programs, which are normally means-tested based on income or other criteria such as whether or not a child has a diagnosed disability. And among this group, states can vary dramatically in terms of access with some programs serving less than 10% of four year olds in the state and others serving as many as 50%.

Matt Grossmann: The states that went first are not necessarily those that built the most extensive programs.

Michael Little: So I think the list of states that were innovators really varies based on what the innovation is. So I think of it in terms of innovation of adoption, access, and quality. So in this particular paper published in education policy, we were concerned with modeling adoption. And so in terms of adoption, the innovating states were Maine, West Virginia, and South Carolina, which all adopted in 1983 and 1984. However, these states are not necessarily the leading innovators in terms of expanded access. So Florida, Wisconsin, and Vermont, for example, all have developed programs that serve much higher proportions of children in their states. And then last, having a pre-K program and offering it to lots of children does not assure that it is indeed a high quality program, which is critical for actually delivering on the promising benefits of pre-K. And so in this area, Mississippi, Michigan, and Hawaii are leading the way based on quality benchmarks developed by organizations like the National Institute for Early Education Research. So it really does vary based on kind of what you’re looking at in terms of who the leading states are in terms of innovations.

Matt Grossmann: States slowly expanded pre-K programs since the 1980s.

Michael Little: We looked at adoptions from 1982 to 2017 in our Time series. And the rate of adoptions was concentrated primarily in the first half of that Time series. But we did see at least one adoption every five years, so activity was occurring fairly consistently, even though it was concentrated in the earlier years. We did see a couple of spurts of activity, so in the mid to late 1980s was a particularly active time.

So in the mid to late 1980s was a particularly active time period with 13 different states adopting from 86 to 1990, and then there was a second prominent period of expansion in the late 1990s and early two thousands with an additional 10 states adopting. To answer the question about whether or not it was national or regional, it’s a little hard to tell. In the first 1980s wave, states did tend to be located in the Midwest or Northeast, but it wasn’t universal, and in that second phase in the late 1990s wave, the states tended to be located in the South. However, again, these patterns were not extremely clear-cut.

Matt Grossmann: Republicans were less likely to adopt Pre-K, especially early on.

Michael Little: Looking across all adoptions, we did find that the higher the percentage of Republicans in the state legislature, the less likely the state was to adopt a program. Put specifically, so for every one percentage point increase in Republicans in the state legislature, the chance of adopting a Pre-K policy decreases by 3.1%. So as a supplementary analysis, we ran the models in each of those three waves of adoptions, and in this analysis, we found a consistent result of higher proportions of Republicans in the legislature being associated with a lower likelihood of adoption in the first two waves, but not the third. So this would suggest a possibility of partisanship of the issue decreasing over time. That said, the partisanship finding overall was a bit surprising to me personally, and did not conform necessarily to my priors because state Pre-K programs are located in a variety of different states and contexts, and some of the most advanced programs for example, are in relatively conservative contexts, like the states of Oklahoma and Florida. So I do wonder to what extent issues like party realignment, particularly in the South may have been influencing some of our observed findings.

Matt Grossmann: Pre-K focuses on four-year-olds with limited expansion to younger ages.

Michael Little: Initially, Pre-K has been conceived of as a program for four-year-olds, but that definition has shifted over time, and you’re increasingly seeing programs develop that serve both a combination of three and four-year-olds. But I will say even today, the vast majority of state funded public Pre-K programs tend to concentrate on four-year-olds. Only a handful of states serve both three and four-year-olds. Honestly, very few states provide really robust supports in the zero-to-three space, independent of existing federal funds like childcare development, block grant, and Early Head Start.

Matt Grossmann: [inaudible 00:20:40] says Pre-K can rely on a broader set of expanding policies.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: Because so much of Pre-K policy making can be grafted pretty naturally onto an existing K through 12 structure, because there are so many existing public Pre-K programs already that have just been expanded through the schools themselves, I think that is just in some circles, an easier sell for logistical reasons. I think obviously there’s still a building pressure for more support for some of the daycare years, but I do think that includes a different set of politics.

Matt Grossmann: But the new debate shows new research on the influences of the broader impacts of childcare.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: Research on the importance of childcare is not new. There’s just been decades and decades of research on how important funding childcare and elder care is, not just for the individuals that are directly impacted by it, so caregivers themselves, but for the economy as a whole, for communities as a whole, that it has ripple effects for creating just a much healthier and more stable environment. I do think what you’ve seen since Biden’s election, and really leading up to Biden’s election in the years prior, is that the research on that has reached a level of public engagement and elite engagement. That means that it is part of an overall economic conversation. So this is kind of tying back to what I was saying earlier about integrating identity and economic issues. I think framing this as infrastructure, elevating it to the status of really desperately needed highway repairs changes some of the calculus around that. So the research has been around for a while. There’s more and more of it, but I think it’s being taken more seriously, frankly.

Matt Grossmann: Little agrees research played an important role in the gains for Pre-K.

Michael Little: I do think that the robust evidence in support of high quality Pre-K programs definitely plays a role. You rarely hear a politician talk about expansion of Pre-K programs without citing the well documented benefits of Pre-K. We have decades of research from a combination of early model experiments, like the famous Perry Preschool Project, as well as more recent evidence on the effectiveness of scaled up public programs, including Head Start and state Pre-K program evaluations. So while scholars like to quibble over nuances between different evaluations and contexts, the research evidence is clear that high quality Pre-K programs yield positive outcomes for participants and pay dividends to society at large. I think that that’s definitely being used as a tool to advance this agenda on the part of politicians.

Matt Grossmann: Childcare is more often tied to benefits for parents, but the federal push is linking them.

Michael Little: Support is similarly bipartisan, as it is for childcare, as it is in public Pre-K programs for three and four-year-olds, and to be honest, I think we sometimes create unnecessary divisions between the birth-through-three childcare world and the Pre-K world for three and four-year-olds, because child development doesn’t work like that. Kids benefit from a seamless and high quality continuum of care and educational supports. However Pre-K is often tied more to the education sector. It’s often viewed as providing essential school readiness supports leading up to school entry. So in Pre-K the main benefactor is often seen and conceptualized of as the child.

This stands in contrast to childcare in the early years where motivations for policy change are often framed as providing quality care for children during the day so parents can work. Here the primary benefactor is often seen as the parent. So given those differences, I do think that the politics could play out differently, but I’ll also add that in the context of the Build Back Better framework, there was a very big push to ensure that universal Pre-K and then also birth-through-three childcare were not decoupled in negotiations because of the financial viability of the sector. It really requires both to be adequately funded and supported for this to be successful.

Matt Grossmann: [inaudible 00:24:42] says implementation of both requires state buy-in after three years, setting up temporarily polarized politics.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: When you think about what the implementation looks like in the states, you are going to see something similar to what we saw with Medicaid. So, specifically with the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. So in the states what’s happening or what’s designed to happen in the bill, should it pass, is that for the first few years, it’s funded a hundred percent by the federal government. That funding is designed right now to come from taxing the very wealthy, and taxing certain corporations. When you finish three years though, there’s an expectation that the states meet through a matching fund set up some of that funding structure. Obviously that is going to be a huge political conversation to say the least, and what you… If it does play out like Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which I think it may, I think what you’ll see is at the outset, there’s a really stark partisan pattern that essentially that states with Democratic governors and Democratic legislatures will be much more willing, for a variety of reasons, to kick in that matching fund and make sure that the programs can continue.

I think states with Republican governors and Republican legislatures will be initially less likely to do so, but what we’ve seen with Medicaid is that after a while there becomes other pressures that sometimes overwhelms the partisan resistance to Medicaid. The programs become popular, especially what you’ve seen with Obamacare is if those Republicans can distance it from Obama, then there’s more likely to support it. I think you’ll see the same thing with childcare. I think, yes, there’ll be resistance, especially early on with Republican governors and Republican legislators, but I think if those programs are popular and I expect that they will be in a lot of cases, and if they can be convinced that they can support it without being seen as tied to a big D Democratic agenda, then you could start to see them inching forward. I do think that the fact that there are so many programs already in Pre-K, and there are not in the daycare years, yes, I think that will lead to some differences in how those play out.

Yes, I think that will lead to some differences in how those play out. What I will say though is there is still a lot of energy in developing those programs and there are plans at least being discussed already. So it’s not like we’re starting from square one on those plans. It just we’re not starting from the place we are on the pre-K plans, which are, in many cases, already established.

Matt Grossmann: Interest group and local politics will still matter, not just partisanship in implementation.

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: The partisan fights are definitely still there. You definitely have stark polarization between some positions of the two parties, but oftentimes you see when it comes to actually policy making or policy implementation, different constituencies and different kinds of alignment and compromise than you do at the federal level in part, because pressures on legislators at the state level and governors can be different than they are at the federal level. So when I think about the state politics of care programs in particular, I think there’s going to be some of the traditional fights we would expect between Republicans and Democrats over how expansive the care is, how generous the care is, who’s eligible for it, what the standards are for who qualifies for it, all the arguments you see around things like Medicaid and other social programs. And for sure, I think they’ll be fights around who is eligible from religious perspectives because that’s an ongoing conservative advocacy element.

But I think one thing that you’ll see, and this brings me back to some of the polling results we have is that because there are more conservative members of the public or Republican-identifying members of the public show some real desire for supporting these programs, I think that’s going to change the conversation away from, “We just want to retrench them as much as possible on the Republican side and support them as much as possible on the democratic side,” because you’re going to see those constituencies once they see those programs are there and they have access to them, their desire to keep them are going to change in much the way they did for some of the Medicaid expansion. So I think that’s going to take some time to all play out, but I do think you’ll have both a partisan fight for expanding these programs and some negotiations around them that are less partisan and more about who can be eligible, who can can qualify for the programs.

Matt Grossmann: Little says, “It might not be as polarized as Medicaid, but expect some partisanship to start.”

Michael Little: These programs are very, very popular. I don’t think that this is like Medicaid expansion in the context of the Affordable Care Act. I don’t see any widespread and coordinated opposition to the early childhood education elements within the Build Back Better framework. So I am hopeful that states take these funds and just because the benefits are clear and based on our research and my understanding of national politics today, however, I would expect the partisanship of the state to matter most with more Republican-dominated states being the less likely ones to accept the funds. Now, that said, if states do reject the funds, all is not lost. Localities could receive these funds directly via Head Start, which has always bypassed state governments. So this may lead to an infusion of funds in more maybe progressive urban centers in states that would then in turn, put pressure on states to explain why such opportunities are being provided in some areas of states and not others and create this subsequent political pressure on states to accept the funds.

Matt Grossmann: Workforce reforms might raise pipeline and diversity concerns.

Michael Little: There’s just not a really great supply of early childhood educators to begin with in terms of overall quantity. I mean, the educators are great, but it takes a lot of time. It’s a pipeline issue to get these people credentialed with these degrees. So that is definitely going to be a heavy lift. And the other thing that I think that the workforce debates is going to come into conflict with is there’s also an education policy generally right now, a push to diversify the workforce as evidenced by really profound, positive impacts of having same race teacher-student matches, and that movement is coming to early childhood education. And there has been some work that increasing the thresholds to entry and credentials required can be a hindrance to increasing diversity of workforce. So I do think that there’s a couple of different competing goals that might come into conflict and lead to some political resistance to those reforms in particular.

Matt Grossmann: VanSickle-Ward says, “Cost increases are part of the bill, but it will mainly affect richer parents.”

Rachel VanSickle-Ward: There is certainly support that I’ve seen in other circles and also support from our survey specifically for increasing the pay. That does engender a majority support in the public. I think the design of the current legislation, whether or not this exactly plays out when it gets fully written and if it gets passed is that the costs will be limited dramatically to anyone making under $300,000 a year. So you have to be pretty wealthy, very wealthy, I would argue, to be hit with any additional costs and in fact, below $300,000 a year, your costs will go down. Is at least the argument for the bill.

So I believe the latest estimate was no more than 7% of your income going to childcare costs. Obviously, how that plays out remains to be seen, but there is support for increasing pay. And I will say, when you look at the advocacy around this, again, thinking about the coalitions that have built, it’s been really important that those go hand in hand from a lot of the advocates on the left of this issue. The idea that you cannot solve the childcare crisis just from one end of it, that it has to be both support from making it more affordable for families and from making careers in childcare actually decent paying jobs with decent benefits.

Matt Grossmann: Little agrees. Lots of issues remain to be addressed in implementation.

Michael Little: Pre-K can be offered in a variety of different settings and types of programs and that can matter dramatically for the quality of the program and the alignment it has with the K-12 education system. So thinking through space concerns of should programs be located in elementary schools or standalone centers? And how do we think through issue of transportation and ensuring that elementary schools can provide wraparound services that the childcare centers do. And just thinking through all of the different logistics that haven’t been brought on so dramatically in the past, because we’ve gone through this process of slowly ratcheting up access, where I think a lot of these kind of quality logistical concerns could keep up in a relatively easy way. This is a huge shift, very abruptly. So all of these considerations are going to be on the forefront of policymaker and program administrator’s minds and they’re going to need a lot of help in getting it right.

Matt Grossmann: But the long term tide is toward expansion.

Michael Little: At least in the long term, public support for early education, it’s high and I mean, it also just makes sense. It benefits kids, it benefits society. It benefits parents who increasingly need quality care so that they can work. So I really do struggle to see a scenario where this tide turns back.

Matt Grossmann: There’s a lot more to learn. The Science of Politics is available biweekly from the Niskanen Center and part of the Democracy Group Network. I’m your host, Matt Grossman. If you like this discussion, you should check out our previous episodes, How Obamacare and Medicaid Drive Voting, The Politics of School From Home, How Political Values and Social Influence Drive Polarization, Is Demographic and Geographic Polarization Overstated, and Why Republican Women Don’t Run for Office and Why It Matters For the Gender Gap In Voting. Thanks to Rachel VanSickle-Ward and Michael Little for joining me. Please check out the Adoption of Public Pre-kindergarten Among the American States and Most Americans Want Congress to Support Childcare and Elder Care, and then listen in next time.

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