Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) returned to the Washington State Capitol--where her fight for affordable pre-K and child care first began--to rally with families, child care advocates, and state lawmakers as she continues her fight to deliver on child care--and prepares to assume the gavel as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
As a working mom and former preschool teacher, Senator Murray never planned to enter politics. But when local officials planned to close her kids' preschool program due to state budget cuts, Murray took action. She packed up her two young children and went to Olympia to urge her state representatives to save the preschool program. While there, one male legislator told her she couldn't make a difference because she was "just a mom in tennis shoes." Murray didn't let that stop her--in response, she organized a grassroots coalition of 13,000 parents that fought successfully to save the preschool program.
During the rally, Senator Murray reflected on the full circle moment in her career and underscored that as she returns to the other Washington next week, she won't stop fighting to make progress on child care in every room and at every opportunity. Senator Murray discussed how the recent 30% funding boost for child care she fought hard to secure will help serve 130,00 more kids across the country--and made clear she's going to keep pushing for more investments, and for the bold change needed to finally fix the child care crisis that's holding parents, providers, and our entire economy back.
"I'm thrilled to be back in Olympia to talk about an issue that is near and dear to my heart," Senator Murray said. "One of the reasons I got into politics, really, and one of the reasons I first ran to serve in this very building so many years ago. It's one every parent thinks about pretty much every day--how they'll take care of their kids so they can go to work, make sure they're safe while at work, and make sure they are set up to thrive. That issue, of course, is child care."
"Right now, families from Seattle to Spokane are stressed. They are staying up late at night trying to figure out how on Earth they will find a child care opening, and how they will afford it if they ever get off a wait list. And when they can't find and afford child care--as is all too often the case--parents, and moms in particular, have to leave their jobs, and stay out of the workforce. All while child care workers are being paid poverty wages, struggling to make ends meet and provide for their own families, and are leaving their jobs for better-paying work at fast food chains and big box stores--who are paying more. We have to do better--for kids, for moms, for workers, for our economy--for everyone," Senator Murray continued. "So I'm here in Olympia--where my political career first began--to say: I'm keeping child care on the agenda."
Senator Murray was joined at the rally by Senator Claire Wilson (D-Federal Way), Assistant Majority Whip; Representative Tana Senn (D-41st District), Chair of the Human Services, Youth & Early Learning Committee; Susan Lee, Operations Director at the Early Learning Centers of the Refugee Women's Alliance; Lauren Hipp, MomsRising National Director of Early Learning and Washington State; child care advocates and champions; and their families.
"We've made critical strides in our efforts to address the child care crisis, but there is more work to be done. Democrats are leading that fight here in Washington State and Senator Patty Murray is leading that fight in the other Washington," said Senator Claire Wilson (D-Federal Way), Assistant Majority Whip.
"I want to emphasize that childcare is a public good and we must start to treat it that way. That requires federal commitment and investment. With Senator Murray at the helm, I see this as our best opportunity yet to fix this issue for millions of children and families across our country," said Representative Tana Senn, Chair of the Human Services, Youth & Early Learning Committee.
"The child care business model is broken and the cost of providing care is simply more than families can afford. Child care providers are underpaid, families are overburdened, and we're all counting on Congress to take action. We need access to affordable care for all families and we need equitable pay and benefits for all educators. Child care is essential for us all -- for children, families, and employers alike -- and it should be funded like the public good it is," said Susan Lee, Operations Director at the Early Learning Centers of the Refugee Women's Alliance.
"MomsRising members have fought relentlessly for affordable, accessible childcare for families across the country. We are so grateful for the tireless work of Senator Patty Murray, the original mom in tennis shoes, and we're thrilled to be standing with her today to continue the fight," said Lauren Hipp, MomsRising National Director of Early Learning and Washington State. "We're proud to be here shoulder to shoulder with so many other childcare champions and we will keep fighting until we get this done for our families, because as moms, that's what we've always done."
Senator Murray--a former preschool teacher herself--is leading the fight in Congress to build a child care system that works for working families. She has been creative--and persistent--in her fight to ensure working parents can find and afford child care.
Last month, Senator Murray secured a $1.8 billion, or 30%, increase in federal funding for child care in the government funding bill, which will serve an additional 130,000 children nationwide--and could deliver over $110 million in new funding for child care in Washington state. The new funding boost builds on years of advocacy by Senator Murray. In 2018, Senator Murray delivered another historic increase in federal funding for child care through the Child Care Development Block Grant, and her efforts have more than tripled the program's funding since 2015. In 2021, after COVID forced the child care sector to the brink of collapse, Senator Murray also fought to provide $39 billion in the American Rescue Plan for child care programs across the country to weather the crisis, keep their employees on payroll, and continue serving families during a tough stretch. The funding saved the child care sector from collapse during the pandemic--helping over 200,000 child care providers keep their doors open and serve as many as 9.5 million children nationwide. In Washington state, the funding has reached providers in 97% of counties, supporting 6,120 child care programs across the state that serve 169,000 kids. It represented the largest-ever one time investment in child care in history.
Last Congress, Senator Murray also introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA), which became the basis for President Biden's child care plan--and a top priority for the Biden Administration. As part of her continued fight to pass historic child care reform, she also championed a child care proposal alongside Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to triple funding for CCDBG and launch a pilot program based on CCWFA to ensure working parents can find and afford child care, and support child care workers.