In Richmond, California in 1943, approximately 35 nursery school units opened up as part of a city-wide child care program.
The country was mobilizing around World War II and increasing employment, particularly among women, had become a national priority. In the case of Richmond, the centers opened to help provide care for the children of women working in the nearby Kaiser shipyards.
And here’s how they were funded: Congress had passed the Defense Housing and Community Facilities and Services Act of 1940 — popularly known as the Lanham Act.
The law was passed in order to fund public works, including child care, in communities with defense industries. Under it, all families (regardless of income) were eligible for child care for up to six days a week, including summers and holidays, and parents paid the equivalent of just $9-$10 a day in today’s dollars. In addition to being affordable, this care was also high-quality. Many centers had low student-teacher ratios, served meals and snacks, and taught children arts and educational enrichment activities.
So, put quite simply: Most people don’t realize it, but we’ve done this before. And, it worked.