by Will Sweger
In an effort to promote her new bill, the Child Care for Working Families Act, Senator Patty Murray visited the Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool in Rainier Valley Thursday. After a short tour of the facility, she met with preschool teachers and parents.
The Water Buffalo Class, wearing colorful áo dài dresses and led by their teacher My Nguyen, sang songs in Vietnamese complete with duck quacks for the visiting Senator. The visit is the latest in a circuit run by the Senator which included stops in Richmond, Longview, and Vancouver.
The new bill, aimed at increasing the quality and reducing the cost of childcare for working families, comes after Murray’s efforts to include additional spending for child care in the new federal budget. The recently passed spending bill includes $2.3 billion for child care services.
“We have a workforce today where families work…you can’t do a good job a work if you’re worried about your kids,” Senator Murray said at the event. “At the same time as a country, we need to know that all those kids are getting the quality care they need and are learning. I am focused on this at the national level.”
The Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool, which opened in 2016, is the first English-Vietnamese bilingual preschool in the Northwest. It serves a majority of students from immigrant and refugee families. Located in Mt. Baker Lofts, the school, like many preschools, regularly struggles with finding funding sources.
Senator Murray is a former preschool teacher and the most senior Democrat on the Senate education committee. “I know how important it is for our young kids to be confident, to enter Kindergarten ready to learn,” she said “It’s a crisis in our country today that so many parents don’t have access to early learning facilities for their children or a place to even leave them while they’re at work.”
She cited her priorities of paying teachers more, creating additional access to preschool, and making sure parents can do their jobs with the knowledge that their children are safe, well-cared for, and learning. Proponents of the bill have also pointed out providing working-class families with childcare would also produce more jobs.
“We have a childcare crisis in this country today. Too many parents have to choose between working and childcare which means their own personal income is impacted dramatically,” Senator Murray explained. “This affects women and men, but women in particular in their careers and their capability to take care of their families. We as a country have to address this.”
Will Sweger is a contributor at the South Seattle Emerald and a resident of Beacon Hill. His work has appeared in Seattle Weekly, Curbed Seattle, The Urbanist, and Borgen Magazine. Find him on Twitter @willsweger