The reaction to President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of a new education secretary in staunch school choice backer Betsy DeVos, according to many advocates, sends a clear message from the incoming president on where he will stand when it comes to the nation’s boiling school debate.
But one pivotal education issue—early childhood education—that’s earned less than its fair share of attention during the presidential election is getting a deep dive from Education Week this week.
And while Trump has indicated some support for early childhood programs through tax deductions and credits for working families, there’s still much up in the air, the paper reports.
From Education Week:
Making child care more affordable for working families was one of a handful of education policy positions that President-elect Donald Trump tackled with some specificity on the campaign trail, promising to offer “much-needed relief” through a combination of tax deductions and credits.
But the incoming administration’s views on a number of other early-childhood initiatives championed by the Obama White House—including federal support of state-run preschool programs, home visiting, and Head Start—are as yet unknown. The early-childhood-advocacy community is still grappling with what a Trump administration will mean for those policies and many others.
On the one hand, both Trump and his vice president, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have made high-profile pitches on early-childhood issues. As governor, for example, Pence in 2014 made a rare appearance before the state Senate to push for a preschool program, and Indiana now has a pilot program operating in five counties.
A wise path for the Trump administration would include continuing programs that already exist, said Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, citing current federal efforts to support state preschool and to link private child-care providers and Head Start.
“We’ve enjoyed eight years, if not longer, of increasing national and federal attention to early-childhood education,” said Perry. “The federal role is one of partner. There is some accountability around quality, but [federal officials are] not in the driver’s seat.”
Katharine B. Stevens, a resident scholar on early-childhood policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, believes that Trump will be focused on programs that are popular, and that early-childhood policies could be a vehicle.
The paper goes on to break down the specifics of Trump’s emerging early childcare policy.
Critics of Trump’s initial child-care-affordability proposal said zeroing in on tax deductions would tilt the benefit to more-affluent families who are able to itemize their taxes. Since he first mentioned the topic, the proposal has been changed to add elements that are geared toward lower-income families as well, including:
- A child-care rebate for low-income families that don’t pay taxes, delivered through an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit;
- A dependent-care savings account allowing families to save $2,000 a year pretax, with up to a $1,000 contribution from the federal government for lower-income families;
- What it calls a more favorable regulatory environment for “family-based and community-based solutions,” rather than center-based care; and
- Incentives for employers to provide child care and six weeks of paid maternity leave for women who have given birth, paid for through the unemployment-insurance system.
But the provisions related to child care are just a part of Trump’s tax proposals, and there is a debate over their overall impact on family resources.
The entire package would end up raising the taxes of low- and middle-income families, including single working parents because of other provisions such as eliminating the head-of-household filing status and reducing the amount that could be taken as a personal exemption, said a report written by Lily Batchelder, a visiting fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
During the campaign, however, Trump’s camp disputed the analysis, saying that it didn’t take into account the economic growth that could come from the tax cuts that would increase family incomes overall.