2016 | First Presidential Debate Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump on Education | Part 4 – Early Childhood Education

2016 Presidential Elections

September 26, 2016

By Charles Barone and Marianne Lombardo



This is the 4th in a series of pre-debate blog posts. See also:

Part 1 – “One of Them Is a Wonk”
Part 2 – “What’s the Proper Federal Role?”
Part 3 – “Public Charter Schools, Parental Choice, & Quality”

Early Childhood Education

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have very different plans for early childhood education. Clinton has an expansive plan that focuses on ages 0-5.  Trump simply offers a new tax deduction for childcare expenses plus a slight increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Hillary Clinton’s Early Childhood Proposals

Clinton’s campaign website details seven early childhood education policy proposals:

  1. Every 4-year-old in America has access to high-quality preschool in the next 10 years.
  2. No family has to pay more than 10 percent of its income for high-quality childcare.
  3. Provide a RAISE to America’s childcare workforce.
  4. Double the number served in Early Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care programs.
  5. Expand access to maternal, infant, and early childhood home visiting programs.
  6. $1,500/year scholarships to help 1 million student parents afford high-quality child care.
  7. An additional 250,000 high-quality childcare seats on college campuses.

“I’ve fought for a very long time for childcare, paid leave, early learning programs, and good schools. That’s what I wanted for my daughter and grandchildren, and it’s what I want for all of our kids. If we want our children to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, we must invest in our children’s future today, starting with our youngest learners, especially those from our most vulnerable and at-risk communities.”

— Hillary Clinton, September 6, 2016, Interview with The Atlantic

Donald Trump’s Child and Dependent Care Plan

Trump has not discussed early childhood education, but has a Child and Dependent Care Plan. At first, Trump’s plan offered only an “above the line” tax deduction of up to $5,000 for child and elder care. After withering criticism that his plan would only help upper-income taxpayers, however, Trump modified his plan so that it includes a boost in the Earned Income Tax Credit of up to an extra $1,200 per year.

Still, as the Clinton campaign points out, Trump’s child care deduction remains “highly regressive – Trump’s plan give around 43 cents on the dollar to 470,000 families with children in the top income tax bracket, and less than half as much to tens of millions of working families in the middle class. That’s because taxpayers in the top income tax bracket can deduct at their income tax rate of 39.6% plus around 4% for half of their payroll taxes.”

Also, unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump does not emphasize quality of care.  Trump in fact brags that his plan seeks to lessen federal child and elder care health and safety regulations by “devolving regulatory authority to the states.”

“The Trump plan will reduce regulations that disproportionately favor center-based care to create a new, dynamic market for family-based and community-based solutions.”  

– Child Care Reforms That Will Make America Great Again, Fact Sheet for Donald J. Trump’s New Child Care Plan

The federal Child Care Development Block Grant was reauthorized in 2014 by overwhelming margins in the U.S. House and Senate. The new law includes health and safety requirements for providers such as in “first aid and CPR” and requires mandatory “reporting and recognition of child abuse and neglect.” It also mandates “comprehensive background checks for child care staff members (including prospective child care staff members and individuals with unsupervised access to children).”


Questions we’d love to see Lester Holt ask (but probably won’t):

For Hillary Clinton: The benefits of pre-K touted by its supporters are drawn from studies of very high-quality programs. The plan laid out on your website does indeed emphasize “quality.” What can the federal government do to establish benchmarks for excellence that help maximize the benefits of high-quality pre-K for young children?

For Donald Trump: Your childcare plan relies on a tax deduction that tilts heavily toward taxpayers in the highest income bracket.  You do also have a refundable tax credit, but the benefit – according to your website – maxes out at only $1,200 per year. Why does your plan do so little to help middle and lower income parents?

For Donald Trump: Your childcare plan emphasizes devolving regulatory power to the states. Would you eliminate all regulations, including those that require health and safety training for providers, reporting of child abuse and neglect, and background checks for staff? If not, what is it that you want the feds to continue to regulate and what is it that you want to devolve to states?