The budgeting and appropriations process for FY2018 is underway in Congress, and earlier today, the House L-HHS Subcommittee of Appropriations held a bipartisan hearing in which 19 witnesses weighed in on FY2018 budgeting priorities. Pyper Davis, the Executive Director of Educare D.C., testified before Chairman Cole, Ranking Member DeLauro, and the members of the Subcommittee about the importance of investing in the federal early learning programs across the birth to five spectrum. Both Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro have been standout champions for early learning over the years. Chairman Cole, whose home state of Oklahoma has two Educare programs, recommended that the Educare network should expand to include Ranking Member DeLauro’s home state of Connecticut. Building on Chairman Cole’s point, Ranking Member DeLauro emphasized the importance of hearing from early childhood advocates at the House L-HHS Subcommittee hearing, particularly given the prospect of cuts to non-defense discretionary spending. Towards the end of last year, FFYF shared its plan for building a continuum of affordable, accessible, high-quality early learning from birth through age five. While the current Continuing Resolution for FY2017 expires on April 28th, and the challenge of limited resources looms over the FY2018 budget, the FFYF National Poll for 2016 found that 90% of American voters, regardless of political affiliation, agree on this: Congress and the president should work together to make quality early childhood more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income families.

Speaking on behalf of all federal early programs, Davis emphasized the critical need for all children, especially low-income children, to have access to affordable, high-quality early learning and care from birth through age five. Educare D.C. is one such example of a program offering a continuum of full-day, year-round, high-quality early learning services for children. The Ounce of Prevention, which includes the First Five Years Fund, launched the original Educare in Chicago in 2000. Today, Educare D.C. belongs to a network of 21 other Educare programs across the country.

All Educare schools braid together federal Head Start grants, federal Child Care and Development Fund dollars, along with state, local, and philanthropic funding to create true public-private partnerships. The federal funding that Educare programs, and other early learning programs that intentionally blend and braid funding sources like Educare, are vital to their ability to serve children and families. These federal programs include the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Head Start and Early Head Start, and IDEA Parts B and C.

As Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman has demonstrated, every dollar invested in high quality birth-to-five early learning and care programs for disadvantaged children provides a 13 percent annual return on investment (ROI). This ROI includes improved social and employment outcomes, and reductions in chronic disease, health care costs, and remedial education spending. Even in the face of limited resources, members on both sides of the aisle have worked together in a bipartisan way that increases support for early learning and care programs.

These bipartisan efforts to champion early learning have resulted in key legislative wins, and more work remains for as long as the need for early learning greatly outpaces the availability. The opportunity to weigh in on the budgetary priorities for the upcoming fiscal year is a positive sign, and FFYF looks forward to continued conversations with the Subcommittee in the coming weeks and months.

To view the submitted testimony of Pyper Davis, click here.