The President released his FY2013 budget proposal today, and, while we’re not overwhelmed by Valentine’s hearts and flowers for early learning, the news could have been worse:
• An $85 million increase for Head Start and Early Head Start, to $8.054 billion overall—enough, as the White House fact sheet says, to maintain the slots that were funded as part of the 2009 Recovery Act
• A $300 million increase for child care quality improvement, which would essentially double the resources available for quality activities in CCDBG
• In addition, the budget proposes nearly $525 million in funds to expand access to child care. However, $500 million of that increase is on the “mandatory” (as opposed to “discretionary”) side of the budget, meaning it would need to be approved by the Ways and Means and Finance Committees, who declined to consider similar proposals made last year.
• Continuation of the Race to the Top initiative, with proposed funding of $850 million—and, while there are no details on how much would be allotted to early learning, it is spelled out that the budget “supports deepening the Administration’s investment in Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.”
But, as those of you who are familiar with the budget dance know, this is only the beginning of a long process—one that seems to get longer each year and that for FY13 will unfold with the added pressures of election year politics and the fallout from last year’s debt ceiling compromises. Still, this is a solid first step. As the country begins to turn the corner on tough economic times, we applaud the Obama administration for maintaining momentum by continuing its commitment to early childhood. The President’s budget reflects what we all know: investments in early learning lead to higher employment, higher incomes, greater workforce productivity, and a more competitive economy. It acknowledges that the path to middle-class security starts with quality early learning and continues with effective education in school, college, and career training.
We hope that Congress agrees, and that they enact funding bills with similarly strong support for early learning.