Under the Dome

Obama signs Burr child care bill

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a bill that Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem took a lead role in guiding to completion – the Child Care Credit and Development Block Grant, which will expand and improve federally subsidized child-care for low-income families.

Burr attended the signing ceremony at the White House, along with other Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House of Representatives who helped get the bill through Congress, two parent advocates and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

The final vote in Congress was Monday night when the Senate passed it 88-1. The only “No” vote was Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

The new law will require states to spend more to improve the quality of child care, such as training for child care workers. It sets the first standards for health, safety and child abuse prevention and for the first time requires background checks for child-care providers in programs that get federal funding.

Burr was the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families. He and the subcommittee chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., held public hearings with parents, childcare providers and early learning experts about how to improve the child-care grant program. The bill had been due for an update since 2002.

“After years of hard work with Senator Mikulski, I am pleased that the Senate has passed this bipartisan, commonsense piece of legislation that will foster the development of children across this nation,” Burr said in a statement after the bill passed. “CCDBG is a welfare reform success story – supporting the safety and education of our children while empowering parents to take control of their own future. This legislation promotes transparency so parents can be well-informed consumers of child care while ensuring federal dollars will no longer go to child care providers who have been convicted of violent crimes. I am proud to have played a part in this major achievement in helping children and their hardworking families.”

Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocacy group for education for disadvantaged young children, said few issues had as much bipartisan appeal in Washington as early childhood education and development.

In a statement on Wednesday, Perry said that since January Congress also had launched a $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition among the states; extended the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program; and approved more than $1 billion in early childhood education funding increases.