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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson June 14, 2021

Biden includes universal preschool proposal in American Families Plan

President Joe Biden has included one of his high-profile campaign promises — to offer universal preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds — in his American Families Plan

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden pledged to "ensure access to high-quality, affordable child care and offer universal preschool to three- and four-year olds through greater investment, expanded tax credits, and sliding-scale subsidies."

This made it into the American Families Plan almost verbatim.

"The American Families Plan will make transformational investments from early childhood to postsecondary education so that all children and young people are able to grow, learn, and gain the skills they need to succeed," the plan's fact sheet from the White House says. "It will provide universal, high quality preschool to all three- and four- year-olds."

Specifically, Biden called for a $200 billion investment in partnership with the states. It would ensure "low student-to-teacher ratios, high-quality and developmentally appropriate curriculum, and supportive classroom environments that are inclusive for all students."

Under the plan, all pre-K and Head Start employees would earn at least $15 an hour, and higher if they had relevant credentials.

Whether a $200 billion investment in itself sets the stage for "universal" preschool is under discussion. An Urban Institute analysis estimated that the investment envisioned in Biden's plan would serve about 80% of 3- and 4-year-olds. The analysis characterized that as a significant improvement, but short of universal.

More immediately, the American Families Plan hasn't been put into legislative language yet, and it's far from certain that the entire proposal, or even portions of it, will be enacted by the narrowly divided House and Senate. 

In fact, bipartisan negotiations over a higher-priority proposal from Biden — the American Jobs Plan, sometimes known as Biden's infrastructure proposal — have struggled to produce a workable agreement, amid concerns expressed by Republicans that the program costs too much. In a Senate where support from 60 senators is required to advance to a final vote, the path to passage is difficult.

Still, the inclusion of Biden's preschool promise in a formal proposal from the White House is enough to rate this promise In the Works.

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