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House Appropriations Committee Recognizes Importance of Investing in Early Childhood Education 

“If we have a deal down the road, early childhood is a place I would be looking to add more.” – Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Subcommittee Chairman 

WASHINGTON – Today the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education marked up its budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, the first leg in what promises to be a long journey of battles and negotiations within and across both chambers of Congress. While the spending bill under consideration reduces or eliminates funding for a number of federal programs, a few early childhood education programs received sustained and even increased funding with support from both parties.

“The past year has been a real turning point in Congress for early childhood education, and today’s Appropriations Subcommittee markup builds on that momentum, but there’s still work to be done,” said First Five Years Fund (FFYF) executive director Kris Perry.  “The babies and children of families living in poverty rely on many of the programs that were under consideration today, and it’s crucial that they continue to have access to the high quality early childhood opportunities that will help give them a chance to succeed in life.  For many children, access to programs like Early Head Start, Head Start and Child Care Development grants can become a path out of poverty.  We recognize that the appropriations process is incredibly challenging, and we hope that when a final spending bill is agreed upon, these programs receive the funding they need for America’s young children.”

Congress has prioritized early learning in a year of extremely constrained resources – reaffirming the growing momentum around an issue that scientists, researchers, business leaders, economists and military leaders all agree is one of the best investments our country can make.  Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) himself acknowledged the need for an increased investment in the education and development of children from birth to age-5.  “If we have a deal down the road, early childhood is a place I would be looking to add more,” Cole said.

But much work remains to ensure America’s children get a strong start in life.  Today’s markup failed to increase funding for Child Care & Development Block Grants and puts state’s progress in moving early childhood education forward at risk through elimination of the Preschool Development Grants. These programs, and many others, should be a top priority for Congress. We look forward to working with the Chairman to restore or increase funding as we move forward in this process.

Earlier this year, as part of the Medicare Doc-Fix, Congress overwhelmingly passed a multi-year extension of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Home visiting – crucial, voluntary programs for new parents with children – has seen overwhelming support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels, as well as significant support from the medical, law enforcement and education communities.  Simultaneously, a bipartisan team of legislators working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – led by Senators Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray and Johnny Isakson – created new pathways for state and local leaders to increase access to early learning opportunities, even establishing a dedicated funding stream for early childhood education in the bill.

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.