Over the past ten years, federal early learning programs have achieved steady, significant progress in increased funding and bipartisan support from Congress and the White House.
These gains would not have been possible without the strong leadership of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who were willing to put political affiliation aside and work together on policies and programs that are proven to support the education and development of children from birth through age five – particularly those from low-income families.
In just the last two years, bipartisan policymakers made historic gains on early learning and care programs. Lawmakers approved an $890 million increase for Early Head Start and Head Start, including $170 million for Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships, from FY2016 levels to FY2019 levels. And most notably, a deal made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as part of negotiations on the FY 2018 budget bill resulted an increase of $2.37 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program above FY2017 levels – effectively doubling the program’s discretionary funding.
These trends reflect a growing commitment from Congress and the White House to expanding access to critical, high-quality early learning programs even when cuts are being made to other education programs. These funding increases for early learning programs have been achieved through multiple transitions in political leadership, under Democratic & Republican administrations and Democratic & Republican Congresses.
This demonstrates the value, potential, and necessity of a bipartisan approach to expanding support for early learning—a strategy that First Five Years Fund (FFYF) has been committed to since its inception. Over the past ten years, FFYF has cultivated Republican support and worked to avoid partisan backlash and opposition, while simultaneously continuing to foster deep champions for early learning among Democrats. This has remained true even in our current fractioned, partisan, and unpredictable political environment.
As demonstrated by these federal funding trends, the last ten years have produced great successes for early learning, with a growing set of strong Democratic and Republican champions, and emerging class of new supporters committed to protecting and expanding federal funding for key early learning programs.