It’s finally here: budget day. Almost two months after the president’s State of the Union speech called for a significant investment in early learning, additional details about the administration’s approach and the magnitude of their funding request are emerging. The proposed early learning initiatives exceed $75 billion over the next ten years and encompass home visiting, Early Head Start, child care, and preschool.
As expected, the centerpiece is a partnership with states to incent them to provide “Preschool for All” and expand access to high-quality early childhood education for low- and moderate-income four-year-olds. Beginning with a $1.3 billion investment this year, the initiative ramps up in years ahead and totals $75 billion over the next decade. The Department of Education budget includes a $750 million companion program for “preschool development grants,” competitive grants to “ensure that States willing to commit to expanding preschool access are able to make the critical investments necessary to serve their four-year-old children in high-quality programs.”
But “Preschool for All” means more than just four-year-olds! The early learning community was eager to see a comprehensive, birth-to-five plan, and the budget proposal also includes key provisions for infants, toddlers, and their families. An additional $15 billion over ten years would be provided to extend and expand evidence-based, voluntary home visiting, and a new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership would provide $1.4 billion to raise the quality of early learning opportunities available for infants and toddlers. An additional $200 million for the child care quality set-aside would help infuse higher quality throughout the child care system, while an additional $500 million would give 100,000 more children child care access.
That young children are at the forefront of our nation’s conversation about its budget priorities is a major milestone and a credit to all of the early learning community’s hard work for years and decades. It acknowledges that our entire country benefits from smart, targeted investments in our nation’s youngest learners starting at birth. Now, we have to mobilize to urge Congress to support high-quality birth-to-five early learning with equal enthusiasm. As always, we’ll be counting on all of you to keep the momentum building and the drumbeat of support ringing in policymakers’ ears. To help you, we’re partnering with the Strong Start for Children campaign, a new coalition of national early learning advocates, to provide a simple toolkit with a sample action alert, Facebook image, sample tweets, and op-ed, blog post, and letter-to-the-editor templates.
We expect more details to emerge throughout the week, and we’ll continue to provide you with updated tools and analyses. Next Wednesday, April 17, at 4p.m. EDT, the Strong Start for Children campaign will be hosting a conference call to discuss the proposal and our next steps with Congress in more detail. Please click here to register.
We look forward to celebrating with you—and gearing up for still more hard work ahead!
*Correction: An earlier version of this post cited a $66 billion investment in “Preschool For All” and an $11 billion investment in home visiting. These figures were based on initial reports from the Administration and have been updated after further clarification from the Administration.