If President Trump has his way, more military families will struggle to find child care.
Last week, Trump proposed a budget with a $100 million cut to child care and youth programs for military families. These programs provide early education programs to children aged 6 weeks to 12 years old as well as after-school and summer enrichment activities for school age children. In total, 700,000 children of military service members receive such services. The budget would defund these programs — despite calls for increased child care funding from military families and advocates.
The military has a model child care program designed to support the unique needs of military families. Ninety-five percent of programs are nationally accredited, and all teachers participate in training and professional development to improve their skills. Parents pay on a sliding scale based on their income so that programs are affordable for all service members.
It wasn’t always this way. In the 1990s, military child care suffered from low-quality and dilapidated facilities. Considerable reform and investment helped ensure that military families had safe and reliable child care options. But Trump’s budget threatens to roll back that progress.
Child care is especially important to military parents who face long hours, demanding jobs, and deployments as part of their work. Military child care provides stability and consistency for young children, helping them form attachments and develop a sense of trust in others. Programs are also specifically designed to help children cope when a parent deploys.
Cuts to child care could also have consequences for military spouses. About one in five military spouses are unemployed, often due to career interruptions from frequent relocations. Losing access to child care would become an added barrier for military spouses pursuing a career. In addition, many spouses rely on child care when the military parent is deployed to help them balance parenting alone.
Throughout his campaign and into his presidency, Trump promised to bolster support for military personnel and to improve the affordability of child care for all working families. But Trump reneges on both of these promises in one fell swoop by proposing a cut to child care funding for military families.
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget includes an increase of approximately $52.8 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, a nearly 10 percent increase from that allocated for this year. That increase includes enough funding to hire over 56,000 more soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. But without additional child care to support new service members, military readiness could be undermined rather than strengthened.
This isn’t the first time that President Trump has neglected the needs of military families. During the federal hiring freeze earlier this year — where Trump ordered a pause on hiring federal employees — several military bases were forced to suspend enrollment at child care facilities due to a shortage of child care providers.
Leila Schochet is a Research Associate for Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Katie Hamm is the Vice President for Early Childhood Policy at the Center.
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