A Statement from First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Kris Perry:
President Obama’s inclusion of a robust early childhood education plan in his FY2016 budget represents a sound investment in America’s future through our greatest resource – our children. This newest budget proposal further establishes what researchers, economists, business leaders and others already know: education begins at birth.
The president’s budget is another marker underscoring how early childhood education has transitioned from a “nice-to-have” cause to a mainstream issue with widespread, bipartisan support. Today’s budget release is a significant step in recognizing that early childhood education encompasses a continuum of programs and services from birth to age 5. That continuum starts with programs like voluntary Home Visiting for families and newborns; continues with high-quality, affordable and safe child care; and concludes with adequate pre-K and early childhood education programs that ensure children enter the K-12 system ready to learn.
The president’s budget includes significant funding to expand many of these programs, including:
- $75 billion for early childhood education through Pre-K for All, a 10-year proposal that would develop and expand preschool offerings in states, including $750 million for the Preschool Development Grants program – a $500 million increase over the 2015 level
- $80 billion in increased funding for the Child Care Development Fund, along with an expansion of the child care tax credit to $3,000 per child, up from $1,000 to increase middle class access to quality, affordable child care
- More than $1.5 billion in increased funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Head Start program and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, aimed at helping programs extend the school day and year for low-income children who participate
- $15 billion over the next 10 years to extend and expand evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs which serve low-income children and their families
Extensive studies show that these programs work. The first five years of life are a critical time when children develop the early cognitive and character skills that set the foundation for later success in school, career and life. Research from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that every dollar we invest in high-quality early learning for disadvantaged children from birth to five grows the economy through a 7-10 percent return – per child, per year – to taxpayers through improved education, health and social outcomes and decreased social spending.
At the White House Summit on Early Education late last year, the president affirmed his commitment to early childhood education through the launch of Invest in US, in partnership with FFYF, where he called on business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, public officials and the public to build a better nation through high-quality early childhood programs for children from birth to age five. His call was answered. To date, more than $1 billion in public and private investments have been committed to early childhood education.
Governors are also championing early childhood education as they map out their states’ budgets. Democrats and Republicans alike understand that investments in these programs contribute significantly to increased school and career achievement and can help reduce remedial education, health and criminal justice system costs in the long-term. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant touted during his state address a proposal that would increase funding for the state’s preschool program for 4-year-olds. Meanwhile, North Dakota and Montana are discussing for the first time state investments in pre-K. Federal investments, like those proposed in the president’s budget today, will establish the fundamental federal-state partnerships needed to help develop, expand and improve upon these state efforts.
As early childhood education continues to rise in prominence on the national stage, we hope Congress will seize the opportunity to act through a substantial federal investment in programs for children birth through age five. We applaud the president for continuing his commitment to early learning and we look forward to significant policy movement in the year ahead.
About the First Five Years Fund
The First Five Years Fund helps America achieve better results in education, health and economic productivity through investments in quality early childhood education programs for disadvantaged children. FFYF provides knowledge, data, and advocacy – persuading federal policymakers to make investments in the first five years of a child’s life that create greater returns for all.