“So what we are calling for is universal childcare,” Sanders, coming off a resounding win in Saturday’s Nevada caucus, told Anderson Cooper. Combined with Sanders’ proposed free public college tuition bill, the plan would mean the United States would guarantee childcare and education from infancy and pre-kindergarten through university.
Sanders’ childcare plan would be funded by the federal government, but run by state agencies and tribal governments, and promises “at least 10 hours a day” of childcare and “would ensure programs operate at times to serve parents who work non-traditional hours.”
The pre-K plan would be “administered locally,” Sanders’ website says, and would guarantee a “full-day, full-week pre-kindergarten education” for every child in the country. In order to build a workforce capable of handling the influx of new children into early childcare and education, the Sanders campaign says it wants to double the number of Early Childhood Education workers from 1.3 million to 2.6 million, and guarantee a living wage to all of those workers.
Sanders’ proposal puts the cost squarely on the government, meaning that of the various childcare plans proposed by the Democratic candidates, it’s the cheapest in the field for many families. The plan Sen. Elizabeth Warren released last year, for example, would provide free childcare to families making up to double the poverty line (in 2020, the poverty line for a family of four is $26,200, according to the Department of Health and Human Services) and cap costs at 7 percent of every family’s income. And although Joe Biden’s campaign has said he supports free pre-kindergarten, the former vice president’s site doesn’t offer a concrete proposal on childcare.
The childcare plan was not the only education-related answer that drew attention from the interview. Asked about his previous comments in support of Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba, Sanders praised the advancements Cuba made in education under the late revolutionary leader.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
“Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear, I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend,” Sanders added. “I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”
The clip made the rounds on social media on Sunday night, notably pushed by the Trump campaign and liberal critics of Sanders. “I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro,” U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, a Democrat from Florida, tweeted.
Sanders’ comments, however, echo praise from former President Barack Obama on the Cuban education system. “Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl,” Obama said in a speech in Havana in March 2016. Three days later, during a speech in Buenos Aires, Obama again praised Cuba’s educational and healthcare systems.