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By Mr. BEGICH:
S. 2180. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax credit for professional school personnel in early childhood education, to expand the deduction for certain expenses of teachers to teachers in early childhood education, and to modify the credit for dependent care services; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. President, today I rise to introduce a package of legislation, the Keep Investing in Developmental Success, KIDS, Act of 2012. These three early childhood bills will address access, quality and affordability in early education programs.
These bills, S. 2180, S. 2181, and S. 2182, are a step towards a commitment to effective early education programs. We all want America's kids ready to learn and ready to succeed when they enter school.
All the data shows early education is one of the strongest predictors of graduation.
The payoff is clear: every dollar invested in early education programs today returns $16 in better outcomes for individuals, families and communities. You can't find a better investment and the payoff is very clear when you see and talk to the kids who have gone through Head Start.
One snowy night about a month ago in Anchorage, I met with about 50 strongly committed Alaska educators to talk about how to improve our schools and prepare our students for the competitive 21st century economy.
From that conversation arose the idea for three bills I am introducing today.
First, we will amend the tax code to provide a tax credit for early childhood educators. The Tax Relief for Early Educators Act will expand the deductions for certain expenses for early childhood education and increase the child care tax credit so more parents can afford to put their children in quality early child development programs.
Right now, a family pays more than $1,400 a month for two young children. For most working families, that is not only a hardship, that is out of reach. Because employees of early childhood programs tend to earn low wages, we also will offer them a tax credit of up to $3,000 and expand the deduction for certain expenses to early childhood educators.
Second, we will create a new student loan forgiveness program for graduates of associate's or bachelor's programs in early education. The Preparing and Reinvesting in Early Education Act, or PRE ED, will provide needed relief for early educators and encourage more to work with kids through age five. Well-trained educators providing quality early education to our children makes all the difference in a child's success.
Third, we need to reward companies offering onsite or near-site childcare with a company cost-share. We know it works for the company and for the employee--just look around our state.
In Alaska BP, Credit Union One and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital are great examples. They all offer quality onsite centers. They know it makes more productive employees.
The Child Care Public-Private Partnership Act will establish a program to provide child care through partnerships. Through new grant incentives for small and medium companies, we can help more Alaska companies do the same.
This package of bills, the KIDS Act, is not a new idea, and I appreciate my colleagues who have come before this body with similar proposals. However, this is the time to pass these bills--for working families struggling to make ends meet. Parents should have access to affordable, high-quality early care and learning services, early childhood educators should have liveable wages and benefits and business will be more productive.
In closing, let me say I feel very privileged to be involved with policy discussions and the formation of bills such as these. This is a bipartisan issue. I strongly encourage my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring these bills and I urge their quick action and approval.