Even if you somehow escaped heat waves and land hurricanes, you’re well aware that we have entered the dog days of summer. Congress, too, is counting the days until their vacation—just a handful of legislative days remain before they leave for August recess and the rest of the year becomes a blur of politics and electioneering. The dust is still settling from one of the much-anticipated events of the summer, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act. While the decision has good implications for early learning, including keeping funding in place for home visiting programs, it also threw a wrench in House of Representatives plans to mark up their appropriations bill before August recess. The ACA ruling not only means the House appropriations bill will have to be re-scored by the Congressional Budget Office; it also changed the political calculus of how best to use the very limited floor time remaining between now and recess. With each passing day, it becomes more likely that early learning funding decisions will languish into the fall—and get mired in the stew of messes that are looming for Congress, like continuing resolutions, pre-election gridlock, and attempts to stave off the sequestration deal struck as part of last year’s debt ceiling negotiations.
UPDATE: The House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will mark up its FY13 appropriations bill on Wednesday, July 18. Stay tuned to The Starting Point blog for updates and analysis.
So what are those Congressmen going to do between now and the election? They’re going to eat fried Oreos at country fairs and throw first pitches at Little League games. They’re going to meet and greet and fundraise all across their home districts. That means we will be counting on you to chat them up about early learning. With a little sleuthing on their websites and a quick phone call to the district office, you can easily find events in your area. While it might sound a little hokey, it’s the truth: constituent voices matter, and any opportunity to keep early learning at the forefront of their minds can make a difference.
Do you know what you would say if you landed that 60-second rendezvous at the pig pickin’ or clam bake? A simple, “I know the budget is tough, but investments in Head Start, child care, and the Early Learning Challenge are one of the smartest possible uses of public dollars—for our community’s children and families, and for all of us,” will get you pretty far. For those of you who are clamoring to do more outreach and education, FFYF will release in coming weeks more tools and templates to help you make the case—stay tuned!
Finally, if you’re looking for a little inspiration about the future of early learning, we’re assembling a blockbuster panel for a National Journal Policy Summit later this month. We hope you can join us in person in DC or watch via webstream as campaign representatives, policymakers, and experts discuss “Early Education for Success” on July 31 at 8:30 a.m. You can RSVP here —it should be a great event for early learning!