Georgia's U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock introduced new legislation on Monday to boost the child care workforce by increasing access to early Head Start programs nationwide.

He introduced the legislation, co-led by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), during a speech at the National Head Start Association Conference's Fall Leadership Institute in Crystal City, Va.

The Head Start Education and Development Workforce Advancement and Yield Act, or HEADWAY Act, "would address early child care workforce shortages by allowing Early Head Start classroom teachers to teach and earn their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential simultaneously," per a Sept. 18 press release.

Investing resources into Head Start Programs is important to Warnock.

"I'm a proud Head Start alum, one of only two in the United States Senate," Warnock said in his speech. "I like to say that I'm a product of good public policy, thanks to programs like Head Start — because only in this country is my story of being a kid who grew up in public housing to becoming a United States senator possible."

Warnock said that an incentive to introduce the HEADWAY Act came from Georgia families.

"What I'm hearing from parents and families in my state is it is becoming even harder to get affordable, quality child care, partly because of the lack of child care professionals in their communities — which puts even more strain on families and our economy," he said.

He also highlighted the statistics on the state of Head State programs nationwide, showing how a lack of child care professionals affects how Head Start classrooms can remain open.

"20% of Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms nationwide are currently closed; 19% of Head Start staff positions are vacant nationwide; and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that our child care workforce numbers are still alarmingly below pre-pandemic levels," he said.

The HEADWAY Act will help hire and attract child care professionals to staff Early Head Start classrooms, "strengthening the nation's child care infrastructure," according to the press release.

Under the legislation, soon-to-be teachers will be allowed to earn the required Child Development Associate credit, all while teaching Early Head Start classrooms for children aged 0-3 years old. The legislation requires at least one teacher in every Head Start classroom to have a completed CDA credential. 

"This bill will support Early Head Start learning professionals and give program directors the flexibility they need to respond to employment trends, while still maintaining the high standards and professionalization of the field," Warnock said.

In a closing statement about the HEADWAY Act in his speech, Warnock said the legislation exists to provide educators with early career experience.

"In a real sense, my HEADWAY Act is aimed at giving our child care educators — who are unsung heroes and the backbone of our education workforce — a 'head start' in their careers," Warnock said.