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#DemDebate: 2020 Democratic Candidates on Early Learning and Care

News July 29, 2019

This week, the 2020 Democratic candidates will take the debate stage in Detroit, MI, where they will discuss a range of issues important to the American people. Two nights of debate, hosted by and broadcast on CNN, will feature a total of 20 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination making their case to voters, detailing their policy positions and other priorities. 

From FFYF’s years of national polling, we have found that early learning and care is a top priority for American voters on both sides of the aisle. And many of the candidates for president have begun detailing their plans for how to ensure more working families have access to the high-quality early childhood opportunities they need. 

It is our hope that the Democratic candidates who will appear on the debate stage this week will use it as an opportunity to discuss and highlight the importance of early learning and care for America’s young children—especially those from low-income families. 

While certainly not representative of the totality of their history or positions on the issue, FFYF has compiled comments from each of the candidates who will appear on the stage: 

Night 1

  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock: “As a father and as a governor, I want to make sure that every child has every opportunity to succeed…children in publicly funded preschool classrooms are not only ready for kindergarten, they are receiving a foundation that will better prepare them for success for the rest of their lives.”
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “I’m particularly interested in the role that pre-kindergarten and early childhood education can play in leveling the playing field. Education is the currency of the American Dream and how you get ahead. We have to make sure that every child has a quality education from those earliest years all the way through college.”
  • Former Congressman John Delaney (D-MD): “We know the best investment we can make in preparing our children for the future is education, which has to include universal access to high-quality early childhood and secondary education. Children who attend pre-kindergarten have improved literacy and math skills, social competence, graduation rates, and chances at full-time employment.”
  • Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper: “Access to quality early childhood education not only sets a foundation for lifelong learning, but it builds a stronger foundation for our community’s economic future.”
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): “Affordable, quality child care must be available to every family. Child care shortages across the country pose a moral and financial issue for communities when parents are forced to decide between working and staying at home with their children.”
  • Former Congressman Beto O’Roruke (D-TX): “I’m convinced universal investment in pre-k is necessary.”
  • Congressman Tim Ryan (R-OH): “The typical cost of full-time care in child care centers for all children ages 0-4 in the United states is $9,589 a year, higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition ($9,410). We must do better than this for our hard working American families. Everyone should have access to quality and affordable child care.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT): “The children are our future, and they deserve the best possible head start in life with a high quality, universal pre-k program.”
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): “We’re the richest country in the history of the planet. Access to high-quality care and education during the first five years of a child’s life shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for the rich. It should be a right for every child.”
  • Marianne Williamson: “We’re the only major country that bases most of our educational funding on property taxes. Every American school should be a palace of learning and temple of culture and the arts. America’s gold and America’s greatness lie waiting to be mined in every one of our kindergartens.”

Night 2

  • Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO): “Early childhood education is essential to a child’s future. Early learning programs are proven to increase kindergarten readiness and to provide students with the early skills they need to succeed later in school and in life.”
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden: “”We’ve got to invest in every child — regardless of zip code or race or parents’ income. In a Biden Administration, we’ll provide high-quality, universal pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds to ensure every kid gets a fair shot.”
  • Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ): “Quality early education programs like Head Start are the key to cultivating the skills children need to ensure future success.”
  • Congressman Julian Castro (D-TX): “Decades of research has told us that a significant portion of childhood development begins prior to entry into kindergarten. These formative years lay the groundwork for the future health and success of our nation’s students…In an increasingly competitive global economy, the United States cannot afford to leave our youngest students at a disadvantage.”
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: “”When I talk to people about Pre-K for all, it is universally appreciated. It cuts across ideological lines, regional lines, rural areas, urban areas. The notion that this great country should be able to reach our youngest kids, help every child start at the same starting line and reach their God-given potential and take that financial burden off working families because it should be for free like it is in New York City. That’s one example of something that resonates everywhere.”
  • Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI): “Research shows the many short and long-term benefits of early education, including increased academic development and achievement, reduced child abuse, neglect, and crime rates, increased income equality, and more. I’ve visited preschools and Head Start classrooms across Hawaii and have seen how these early childhood education programs have an incredible impact on our keiki and our communities.”
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): “Every dollar you put into early childhood education has an impact of $11 in the lifetime of that child in terms of their economic potential. And so it’s the best investment you could possibly make…This a bipartisan issue. I’ve been working on a bipartisan basis on affordable child care for a long time. So it’s a common-sense reform that we should be able to vote on and actually pass into law.”
  • Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA): “Quality, affordable child care is essential for both children and parents to thrive. All families should be able to have access to affordable care for their children.”
  • Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “We need to help early childhood education. We need to have kids that are not having success in school early in life to have the help they need.”
  • Andrew Yang: “Pre-k and early childhood education have been proven to get kids off to a better start, and it also relieves families from having to find and pay for daycare for their children when they are 3 and 4. Other countries are investment in it, including China, and we need to as well for the good of our children and families and our long-term competitiveness as a country.”


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