Now that President Biden’s infrastructure bill has passed through contentious negotiations to a narrow but successful vote in the House, some $6 billion will be heading to West Virginia to address long-neglected roads and bridges, sewer systems and water pipes, and access to the digital world via fast and reliable broadband hookups.
With momentum on their side, and with fresh legs after a recess, this is no time for our congressional leaders to cower from the challenges immediately ahead. This is no time to be intimidated. No time for the weak-kneed. We speak of a $1.85 trillion bill that confronts a frayed social safety net and climate change that is spinning out of our collective ability to evade a cataclysmic reckoning. Yes, that is a hefty price tag, but cheap when compared to the consequences of doing nothing – for our planet, for American families losing touch with the American Dream, and for children who should be on equal footing right out of the gate to chase their dreams.
No, none of the faults and fissures in our infrastructure will be fixed overnight, and no, not all of our underground leaks and roadway bumps will be plugged and patched on the day after the last penny is spent.
But just the certainty that there will be dollars banked to pay for vastly improved services and roadways that have for too long been pushed aside for other priorities? Well, that is simply exciting. And comforting. This important and necessary piece of legislation puts important puzzle pieces in place that allow us to see possibilities and potential of long-held dreams taking shape – right here in the southern reaches of the state.
The next step, of course, is near its final form, and without getting too far into the weeds to debate each point ad nauseam, we will point to just one simple policy prescription with a simple mission that we think typifies much of the good that is intended in the larger.
Costing $390 billion, a child care proposal would provide all 3- and 4-year-old children with universal access to preschool, representing the largest expansion of free education since high school was added a century ago. It would also subsidize the cost of child care for the vast majority of parents with a child under 6.
The current network that favors the wealthy would be transformed from a private, disparate network into a taxpayer-funded system that would ease the financial crunch for millions of working mothers and low-income families. This represents generational change that will resonate with voters and help American families. More importantly, it better reflects our collective values – that we want the best education possible for all of our children.
Through this large-scale public investment – paid for by taxes on the rich, many of whom are not paying a penny now – all parents will be able to send their children into an educational setting while they re-enter the workforce.
Likewise, provider pay would be more in keeping with the value they provide society than the poverty wages they currently receive.
There is no real secret to this program, no hidden details. But if you want to know why American kids are falling behind their classmates, start here: As of 2019, only about half of American 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool, according to federal statistics.
This is a change that is long overdue. We live in a society where many women can’t be at work because their hands are tied at home. And yet we have employers who are looking for qualified workers.
Let’s connect the dots and eliminate barriers that keep moms from contributing all that they have to give.
The cherry on top, of course, is that our children, all of them, have equal opportunity to learn and to grow – right from the get-go.