Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton listened and talked to young parents in the workforce for nearly an hour Tuesday at the Family Care Center on Red Mile Place in Lexington and said their issues are among the most important in this year’s race for president.
At the city-operated center and later at a family health center in Louisville, Clinton said her vision to help working families afford the rising costs of child care includes limiting child care costs to no more than 10 percent of a family’s income.
She also proposed expanding home visiting programs for new parents and boosting wages for child care workers.
Clinton was back in Kentucky for the second time this month, campaigning ahead of the state’s May 17 primary election. She faces U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who campaigned in Louisville and Lexington last week. Former President Bill Clinton is to return to Kentucky on Thursday to campaign for his wife, with stops in Owensboro, Frankfort and Prestonsburg.
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The former U.S. secretary of state met with several Lexington officials and state legislators before holding a round-table discussion with 16 participants at the Lexington center.
She told Joanna Rodes, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s family services director and director of the care center, that she considered the center “a model, and I want more communities to know about it.”
As president, Clinton said, she wants to help parents become their child’s first teacher.
She committed, without offering a specific price tag or funding source, to significantly increase spending on child care so no family pays more than 10 percent of its income for the service.
She said the cost of child care has increased by nearly 25 percent during the past decade, even as wages have stagnated.
The high cost of child care, she said, severely squeezes working families, prevents too many children from getting a healthy start, and acts as a disincentive for parents to stay in the workforce.
Clinton also said she wants to improve the quality of child care by giving a raise to America’s child care workers.
She said too many workers don’t receive a living wage, and that results in high turnover.
Her plan, Respect And Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators, would help fund and support states and local communities that increase the minimum compensation of child care providers and early educators.
Clinton also said she wants to provide home visiting services by social workers or nurses to more than 2 million parents and children in the next 10 years.
Another part of her plan to help families, Clinton said, is providing scholarships of as much as $1,500 a year to as many as one million student parents. She said nearly 5 million college students balance school work and raising a child.
The scholarship recipients, she said, could use the awards to pay for child care.
Her other goals, she said, include doubling the number of children served by Early Head Start and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program, making preschool universal for every 4-year-old in America, and providing 12 weeks of paid family leave so mothers and fathers can care for their new babies.
Hilary McKenzie, a single mother of three who works full-time in the local public school system, told Clinton that she “couldn’t do without” the Lexington Family Care Center.
Clinton said employers should understand how “so stressed out” their workers can be when they can’t afford child care.
Jessica McClung shared with Clinton her story of working to support a 6-year-old son while attending the University of Kentucky.
“I don’t think these stories are told enough,” Clinton said.
Before Clinton arrived in the state Tuesday, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear endorsed her for president.
“In this time of division and derision, we need a calm, sensible and experienced hand leading this nation,” Beshear said in a news release. “Hillary Clinton is that leader, and I enthusiastically endorse her to be president of these United States.”
Kentucky Republican Party spokesman Tres Watson said it was no surprise that Steve Beshear would endorse Clinton.
“Between their embrace of Obamacare, support for job-killing coal regulations and the fact that scandal now engulfs their previous administrations, they have a lot in common,” Watson said.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, released a video Tuesday, calling on Clinton to apologize to Kentuckians for promising to “put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.”
Clinton said last week in West Virginia that what she said “was totally out of context for what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time. It was a misstatement because what I was saying is the way things are going now, they will continue to lose jobs. It didn’t mean that we were going to do it.”