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4 Take-Aways from the 2024 State of the Union for Early Care and Learning

Policy Manager Nadia Gronkowski shares how well the 2024 State of the Union reflected the early care and learning priorities that are high-priority for families and providers.

Nadia Gronkowski March 8, 2024
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

At Start Early, we understand that a path forward must involve listening to and partnering with families and early childhood practitioners. We can get it right for all children from the start by shaping futures together with teachers, support staff, doulas, home visitors, child care providers and other early childhood staff. That’s why as we watched President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union, we were listening out for opportunities to prioritize the early care and learning policies, research and investments that families and providers shared as high priority during the development of the Shaping Futures Together Agenda, our new research and policy agenda. Here’s how the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities stacked up to what we heard from those on the front lines of narrowing the equity gap for our nation’s youngest children:

Healthy Births and Thriving Families

The families and providers we spoke to as we developed  the Shaping Futures Together Agenda made it clear: they need and want greater access to the financial security, supports for new parents, and paid family leave benefits that every family deserves in order to get off to a strong start. President Biden’s points during the State of the Union about the cost of housing and food, student debt, and the many economic factors affecting families today speaks to the need to make it easier for families to have the financial resources they need to thrive. We applaud his reminder that the Child Tax Credit (CTC) the Biden-Harris administration passed during the pandemic supported “millions of working families and cut child poverty in half”, and his call to action to restore the credit because “no child should go hungry in this country.” We look forward to advancing this priority by working to eliminate the restrictive policies and eligibility criteria of federal early childhood and financial assistance programs that limit a family’s ability to improve their financial circumstances and advance policies like the CTC and Universal Basic Income that can help ensure consistent access to basic needs for families with young children. We applaud the House for its recent passage of a bipartisan tax package that included an expanded CTC, and urge the Senate to take action on this important support for families.

Positive Early Learning and Development

Across the country, families face a diverse array of life situations that are made more complicated by the challenge of finding quality, affordable child care. We—and the families and providers we spoke to in the Shaping Futures Together Agenda listening sessions – share President Biden’s vision on this: “Imagine a future with affordable child care. Millions of families can get [the support] they need to go to work to help grow the economy.” We applaud the priority placed on child care at the State of the Union as well as the administration’s most recent efforts to expand affordable child care for families accessing child care assistance, which included capping families’ co-payments, encouraging states to eliminate co-payments for families with the greatest need, and streamlining the process for families to access child care subsidies. These policies provide parents the opportunity to work, helping increase family economic security and building a stronger economy. As parent Hazel shared with us, “If you’re a parent, your ability to show up fully to a job is dependent on being confident and comfortable with who is watching your child.” We look forward to partnering with the Biden-Harris administration to ensure that all parents have that confidence and comfort by further expanding access to child care and making it easier for all families to access Early Head Start and Head Start and Early Intervention services.

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Effective, Valued and Well-Compensated Workforce

The workforce is the backbone of the early childhood programs and systems that children and families rely on every day. We heard President Biden’s statement last night loud and clear, and we agree: public school teachers deserve a raise and “to remain the strongest economy in the world, we need the best education system in the world.” We also applaud the President’s commitment in last night’s speech to working towards public pre-K access for all 3- and 4-year-olds. We hope that in its work to support our nation’s education system, that the Biden-Harris administration will continue to lift up our workforce: the child care providers, home visitors, and others who deserve the wages, job satisfaction, and professional development opportunities that will help them remain in the early learning field. As Columba, curriculum director at an early learning center shared: “Being a teacher is hard work… if you’re not rewarded and appropriately compensated, you’re going to find something easier to do, often for the same amount of money or more. I see it too often.” We must work together to improve pay, benefits, and support for those who work in early childhood programs and help them stay in their roles by ensuring they can meet their own basic needs and are developing as professionals.

Climate Change

We applaud the President’s recommitment to environmental justice in the priorities he set forth last night: “We are also making history by confronting the climate crisis, not denying it. I’m taking the most significant action on climate ever in the history of the world… Taking historic action on environmental justice for fence-line communities smothered by the legacy of pollution.” The historic investments in environmental justice advanced by the Biden-Harris administration have the potential to connect children, families, and early care and learning providers across the country with resources that promote their resilience in a disrupted climate. As with the Shaping Futures Together agenda, Start Early and its partners heard through many parent and provider listening sessions that climate change and resiliency are top of mind for those who care for young children. We hope the administration’s commitment climate justice will extend to children and families and will encompass the solutions proposed in Flourishing Children, Healthy Communities, and a Stronger Nation: The U.S. Early Years Climate Action Plan.


Start Early believes the federal government can act as a facilitator of strong early childhood programs and systems at the state and community levels. But policies and investments that program and system improvement at all levels of government must remain centered in the priorities and lived experiences of caregivers of young children. We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for aligning with the priorities we’ve heard from families and providers across the country, and look forward to partnering with the administration and those on the front-lines to move these important policies forward.

About the Author

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Nadia Gronkowski

Program Manager, Advocacy & Policy

As program manager of advocacy and policy, Nadia Gronkowski supports the creation and execution of Start Early’s systems change and federal advocacy strategies.

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