Earlier today, the Senate appropriations subcommittee tasked with setting funding levels for early learning programs approved its FY13 spending bill. As we’ve mentioned before, this is just the first step in a long process that will likely extend beyond the November elections and into next winter’s lame duck session, with many potential hurdles and tough negotiations likely to unfold between today’s mark-up and a final bill.

But first steps are still important, and the news was good, with increases over current funding levels:

  • A $70 million increase for Head Start, which will mostly cover cost of living adjustments and the recompetition process;
  • A $160 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, with $90 million targeted for quality initiatives and the other $70 million toward expanding services;
  • $600 million (a $51 million increase) for the Race to the Top program, with the very heartening, big-win-for-early-learning signifying note that a significant portion will be used for the Early Learning Challenge state grants.

That champions in the Senate were able to offer increases in such a difficult funding climate demonstrates a strong commitment to the programs we know are vital investments. That the increases are modest speaks to the daunting challenge ahead to hold the line and not lose ground.

We hope you’ll join us in applauding the supporters on the subcommittee for their commitment to quality, systems-building, and expanding services for the youngest and most at-risk children. The full Senate appropriations committee is scheduled to take the next step on this bill on Thursday, and we expect the corresponding subcommittee in the House of Representatives to vote on their version of the spending bill in coming weeks – and we need the support for early learning to be loud and emphatic. As always, we will keep you posted with any news that comes our way, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.