Romney Presses Education Secretary on Democrats’ Plan for Free Child Care, Pre-K & Community College

Argues that parents should be given the freedom to choose the best care for their children

WASHINGTON— Today, during a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) challenged proposals in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill to make Americans more dependent on the federal government – from early childhood through community college. Senator Romney specifically highlighted how, under the Democrats’ plan, these programs wouldn’t be permanent—unlike the tax increases that would be used to pay for them. This means families will start to rely on them, only for them to disappear. If these new programs were to be made permanent, he pointed out that there would be only two ways to pay for them: further adding to the national debt or more tax increases on millions of Americans. Instead of new costly government programs, families should be given the freedom to decide what is best for their children’s early education.

His exchange with Secretary Cardona can be found below and video can be found here.

Senator Romney: Secretary Cardona, as young families are thinking about having children, they consider the plans for what it will mean to have a child. And they consider about pre-K, about child care, about college expenses down the road. And I note that in the President’s plan, the so-called reconciliation bill of $3.5 trillion, that the plan is that child care and early learning expire after six years instead of ten years for the full program, that pre-K expires after seven years, and that community college coverage expires after five years. Do you think that young parents should therefore plan on these programs disappearing in six, seven, and five years, as proposed under the Administration’s legislation?

Secretary Cardona: Thank you, Senator Romney, for the question. We’re at a point in our country’s history where we have the opportunity for transformational change for our students.

Romney: I totally agree. I don’t want to go on a different topic here, which is, the transformation. Is this a permanent change—it’s transformation, if it’s permanent. But if it’s just temporary—five, six, seven years, and all these programs go away, that’s not transformational. That’s bait and switch.

Cardona: Senator, I do believe at this point the families, especially post-pandemic, providing community college access, that only helps the economy.

Romney: But should it expire at the end as it is planned now?

Cardona: I’m hopeful, Senator, that today goes really well for our families across the country and that in the coming years, we’ll find ways to continue to support those strategies that we know lift American families.

Romney: You mean it’s your anticipation these programs, then, that parents should count on them continuing?

Cardona: That is the goal, to have community college for all families.

Romney: If that’s the goal for all these programs, not the five years, six years, seven years that’s in the legislation, how are you going to pay for it? Because there’s only one of two ways. Either more debt or higher taxes. Which do you prefer?

Cardona: Senator, I know in this proposed budget no one making under $400,000 will see an increase in taxes.

Romney: That’s right away. But if you’re saying that down the road, when these programs are set to expire, you would expect them to continue instead. That means any promises about not raising taxes on people making under $400,000 today, those are going to expire as well.

Cardona: As a lifetime educator I can tell you what’s being proposed is transformational.

Romney: I agree it’s transformational, but I’m not sure it’s transformational in the right way. I’m concerned that we’re going to double the child tax credit which allows people to help people pay for child care. At the same time we’re going to give them Pre-K for two years. Why double? Why give people free pre-K and double their child tax credit which they could use for themselves to either decide to care for their own children at home, to go to Head Start, to go to a private child care facility. Why do we have to both double the child tax credit and at the same time provide free Pre-K and by the way, build new school classrooms to do so.

Cardona: Sir, for me as an educator, early childhood education is a foundation for a strong educational program.

Romney: Totally agree, but why do we have to pay for it twice?

Cardona: I’ve seen the benefit of it and I know for many of these families, the ability to get back to work and add to their income is…

Romney: Look, I’m perfectly happy with providing funding to families so they can provide child care for their child. I think they ought to have the choice of one providing it themselves if they want to, either with a family member or a spouse or number two, sending a child to a child care facility of their choice. But to say you’re going to do that and we’re also going to give you public school child care, that’s two programs, doubling the cost, and it’s taking away the incentive for people that might choose to decide to have the child cared for at home.