Wow, what a great way to begin and to all of you especially Mary Carmen and LaKeisha thank you for speaking on behalf of providers and parents. We’re going to hear from everybody as we go through our event today. I want to thank everyone at New Horizons for welcoming us to this facility. And to all my friends at SEIU as well.
We’re here today to talk about childcare. But its important to understand that when we talk about childcare we’re talking about the economy, we’re talking about families, we’re talking about fairness, we’re talking about all of the values that we believe are necessary to raise healthy successful productive children in society today. I want to say just a few words about what’s happening with our economy and more broadly about America’s families. Because I think when our families are strong America is strong. And if we don’t have strong families its really hard for us to be the kind of strong nation that sets the table for our children to do better.
We’ve come back from really tough economic times. The great recession just really knocked people to the ground. People lost their jobs, they lost their homes they postponed doing things like going to college, they had to keep working if they had a job even if they were at or beyond retirement. It really took a lot out of everybody. And we are in much better shape today in large measure because families made the sacrifice and worked really hard despite the odds. They took extra jobs like some of you they skipped what were really necessities but they figured out how to make them not as urgent a need, like not driving the car as much or not buying all the food that the family required. So everybody made it work.
But the deck is still stacked for those at the top. Something is wrong when top CEOs earn 300 times more than what the average worker earns and I heard a statistic the other day that was kind of related to what we’re talking about today, if you take the salaries, the compensation, of the top 25 hedge fund managers in America, those 25 men make more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country put together. Now I happen to think that kindergarten teachers and child care providers and child development specialists are really important because they are the people that are helping to get our kids off to a good start working with families.
And I’m running for President because I think everyday Americans need a champion, a champion that gets up every single day and goes to work and goes to bat and does everything I can to help families just get by which is what you were talking about. I want you to get ahead and stay ahead. I want to make the words “middle class” mean something again.
Now, when we think about strong families being the backbone of our country, we have to recognize that our economy is different and our families are different. I was born in Chicago and the families of today are not exactly the same as the family I was born into. Most families need two incomes or two jobs if there is only one parent to make ends meet. And 40 percent of moms, just like LaKeisha, are now the sole or the primary breadwinners in their household. So that’s a big different from the way it was when I and others here were growing up. Yet we haven’t adjusted our economy or our government programs to take those differences into account. You know I can remember very well when I was a young lawyer before I had my daughter in my law firm where I worked in Arkansas, around 3 o’clock I’d see all the women who worked there sort of whispering into their phones and I didn’t know why, but it was just like clockwork, well they were trying to make sure their kids got home safely because their kids were walking home or getting off the bus and going home waiting for mom to get home. And it wasn’t accepted back then that you could be a good worker and a devoted parent at the same time, especially for women. But that kind of juggling act is what most of us do all the time now and therefore we have to adjust how we support families so that you can be the best you can be and how we support small businesses like so many child care providers so you can make a living while you do what you love.
So we know that with Moms and Dads squeezing every minute out of a 24-hour day and with you Mary Carmen saying you work 17 hours, it’s hard to even find time to breathe. And many can’t count on anybody being there to help you because everyone you know is working hard and trying to make ends meet.
So finding high quality, affordable, flexible childcare is more important than ever. But it’s also harder than ever.
Federal and state funding for childcare has not kept up with changing times and rising demand. So it’s no surprise that out-of-pocket childcare costs for families have soared by nearly 25 percent over the past decade. And now the Republican budget that is being worked on by the Congress would cut funding even more. Making it so much more difficult. America cannot turn its back on our children and our working parents. Family values are economic values. I’m going to be putting forth plans to fix this. We should do it now. And Republicans should either get on board or get out of the way.
Because it’s now time for us to face reality. Our families need new solutions today, they need real help not promises. And I’m very clear about what I think needs to be done but I want to hear from all of you because what I’m doing in traveling around the country is taking ideas I have, some of which I have been developing for many years, but hearing from people on the front lines, whether its immigration or small business or today child care.
First, to bring down out-of-control family costs, we need to make investments in childcare a national priority.
What President Obama has proposed is a good start. I’ll look for responsible ways to go even further, whether it’s providing tax cuts to new parents or grants to states targeted for infants and toddlers. Whatever its going to take to give both LaKeisha and the providers more opportunities. And you know its embarrassing, I traveled to 112 countries as your Secretary of State, there are only 9 countries left in the world that have no form of paid family leave, and we are one of them. And the other ones are tiny countries, countries without many resources. Every other country has something that says, we think it’s really important that moms bond with their newborn babies, we think its important that a dad can have some time, we think it’s important that children can take care of their parents as those parents maybe are ill or failing. So we’ve got to have better systems in place with more support and we have to focus on quality so that all our kids have access to the best possible care. And many of you know how hard that is because you have two people helping you take care of 16 children. There are a lot of places where there would be one person trying to take care of 16 children. We have to reducing overcrowding and increasing training and most importantly we have to increase wages. Because you expect to make a living doing the most important job in the world if you have to sacrifice your own family. That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
So to all the childcare workers here today, I want you to know that the service and care you provide strengthens our economy, it strengthens families and helps prepare children. You should be valued for that, respected for that, and you should be paid for that.
Now I am a new Grandmother and it’s really wonderful but just being around my new 7 1/2 month old granddaughter just reinforces what I believe, which is when when we short-change childcare workers, we short-change kids and short-change Americans’ future. It makes it harder to retain the best staff. It makes it harder to keep up those high standards.
So we have to stand firmly together and united on behalf of your right to organize, your right to bargain collectively, your right to fighting together for the higher wages that reflect the value of your work. There is nothing more important to the family or to the support of the family, which you are, than caring for our youngest children.
That’s why I so respect the vital work that SEIU is doing, under the leadership of President Mary Kay Henry, is so vital. I think it is absolutely essential.
And I want to say something else about it, when people talk to me about the need to improve our educations system, I agree, because I want every child to have the best possible education. But education starts at birth. Education starts when that little baby comes into the world. In fact we now know, because of brain research, that about 80% of the brain is actually developed by the age of 3 and 4. If we don’t take care of our babies we are short changing them on their brain development and then when we get to kindergarten no matter how hard they try, no matter how much their mom says do your best, do your homework, no matter how hard their teacher works they’re going to be at a disadvantage. That’s wrong, it isn’t right that a child like my grandchild will have all of these opportunities because we’re reading and we’re talking and we’re singing but we’re not working 17 hour days and we’re not trying to get by on $5100 after the expenses are paid. So yea, we’re going to make sure that Charlotte has every chance in the world but I want every baby, everyone your babies and every baby you take care of to have exactly the same chances.
Ultimately, this is, for me, about how we work together to give every child the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. You see it in their faces when they are put in your arms from the very first minute. You want to keep that light in their eyes, you want to make sure they have every opportunity to fulfill that God-given potential. And I’m here because I want to help you and the parents you serve unlock that potential, when we unlock the full potential of every American, we can unlock the full potential and prosperity of America.
So for me, this is as important an as anything else that I’m going to talk about in my campaign for president. Thank you.