ACSI has been working for many months to try to make sure the child care and universal pre-K (UPK) provisions in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) would not negatively affect Christian institutions providing pre-school and early education programs.
The BBBA legislation is in final stages of negotiation in the U.S. Senate, and your voice now could have the most beneficial impact. Even the current Congressional delays simply give more time for changes.
We ask you to send your Senators the letter below today to help ensure the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) does not negatively impact Christian preschools and early ed providers. And, please do share this alert with your wider school community.
Here is additional background information:
First, ACSI does not take a position on the overall BBBA itself. Our focus is on (a) the bill’s universal pre-K program and (b) its child care provisions. The original text of the BBBA from the House included requirements that served effectively to exclude faith-based providers. Faith-based providers help 53% of the families who need child care, but the House version imposed non-discrimination requirements taken from the federal Head Start program which operate to secularize religious providers. It also used the structure of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG), including its certificates, but explicitly departed from it by redefining the certificates as “federal financial assistance” (FFA) with all the intrusive government requirements that come with that designation.
ACSI has been involved in talking to policy makers, joining in coalition letters opposing the parts of the bill that would negatively affect Christian organizations, (see here and here for more information), and getting two ACSI member school administrators on a roundtable meeting December 1st, with five key Senators (including Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)) to explain the real world practical impact of this legislation.
The good news is that all of these efforts have borne fruit. On December 11th, Congressional advocates released new text for the Senate version of BBBA. That text made several very significant improvements. The Head Start language was dropped in an apparent recognition of how counterproductive it was, and, child care certificates were redefined as “indirect” FFA.
However, we believe more needs to be done to protect Christian pre-schools and early ed providers. While “indirect FFA” is a bit better than the term “direct FFA”, it is still “federal financial assistance" in the BBBA child care program. Therefore, it still suppresses religious provider participation as it arguably brings with it requirements under Title IX, the ADA, Sec. 504 of the Rehab Act and more. Yes, there are exemptions for religious providers, but, as you also know, the Biden Administration is committed to distorting Title IX by grafting the Supreme Court’s wrongly-decided Title VII mandate in Bostock onto Title IX. And, of course, the UPK program continues to use direct grants which, of course, are FFA.
If Congress truly wanted faith-based providers to participate, it would use successful models already in place – such as the CCDBG itself – and not include any language at all that makes providers recipients of FFA (direct or indirect).
Congress knows that CCDBG exists and has been working effectively since the early 1990s when it was first passed. They know religious providers can and do participate in CCDBG and have done so for decades. Congress knows all this because they appropriated the CCDBG structure and deliberately distorted it to make it exclude or suppress religious provider participation.
The pressure Congress has felt from its overreach led it to take a positive step in the right direction. We feel that your voice appealing to the good faith of pro-BBBA Senators now might help move this legislation further to protect religious liberty issues involved. Please write to your Senators, thank them for the fact that the new BBBA language is a positive step in the right direction, and encourage them simply to take the next best step: to use CCDBG so that religious providers can participate AND apply it to both the BBBA’s UPK and its child care provisions.
No one knows when or even if BBBA will get to the Senate floor. At one point, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) wanted it passed by Christmas. Every day brings new debate over the timing and process, so please act now whatever you may read in the media.