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Johnson looks to expand child care options for parents in college

Dusty Johnson speaks at a Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce event. Forum News Service file photo

PIERRE, S.D. — Looking to ease the burden of child care for parents in college, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., is planning to introduce a bill to open federal college and university grant dollars to fund more accessible child care to student-parents.

According to Johnson's Friday, Aug. 30, newspaper column, 24% of American college students are parents. As a member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, Johnson said he has heard testimony from student-parents struggling to juggle their studies, jobs and child care.

"A postsecondary education or trade is more important than ever to succeed in today’s economy," Johnson wrote. "And access to affordable child care can be a great enabler for parents to pursue a postsecondary education and get a higher-paying job."

Once Congress returns to Washington next week, Johnson said he plans to introduce Empower Parents in College Act. According to a draft of the bill provided by Johnson's office, it would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to fund partnerships between higher education institutions and child care providers, with the goal of creating more flexible options for student-parents.

Johnson's bill would utilize funds from the existing Strengthening Institutions Program, which allocates grant dollars to tech schools, colleges and universities that serve low-income students.

"If Congress can add flexibility for college student-parents at no extra cost to the program, it should be a no-brainer," Johnson wrote.