WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $161.857 billion spending bill for fiscal year 2017, which included bipartisan measures to increase or sustain funding for core early learning programs. This is the first bipartisan spending bill passed out of the Senate committee in seven years.

“After a year of historic support for early childhood education in Congress, we’re pleased to see this sign of continued a bipartisan commitment to our nation’s youngest learners,” said First Five Years Fund Executive Director Kris Perry. “Funding for these crucial programs helps ensure that the most at–risk families are supported through affordable, high-quality early care and learning. But, we have a lot more work to do. As the appropriations process moves forward, we are hopeful additional resources are added to this bill and ultimately to the programs that support America’s greatest resource – our children.”

Programs under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provide critical early learning opportunities to young children from low-income families and are appropriated by the LHHS subcommittee include Head Start, Child Care and Preschool Development Grants. Approved funding levels for FY2017 are:

  • Head Start – $9,203,095,000, an increase of $35 million over the FY2016 level
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) – $2,786,000,000, an increase of $25 million over the FY2016 level
  • Preschool Development Grants – $250,000,000, the same level as FY2016

As states and school districts shift toward implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the subcommittee allocated $67.8 billion for the U.S. Department of Education. This represents a $50 million increase when compared to the FY2016 levels for Title I and School Improvement activities combined (Title I and School Improvement activities were consolidated under ESSA). Title I is the primary federal program designed to promote educational equity in elementary and secondary schools. The program provides financial assistance to public schools and school districts that serve a high number of children from low-income families in order to support these vulnerable students in meeting state educational standards. Both within Title I and throughout the new law, there are numerous opportunities for states and districts to invest in early learning. Examples of these provisions include addressing early childhood education in state plans, accounting for preschool enrollment in state report cards, ensuring that Title I funds used for early childhood programs meet Head Start Performance Standards, and increasing the coordination of school districts with early childhood programs to support children’s transition to elementary school.

Congress has become a bipartisan champion for early learning, and remains so in a time of limited resources. Policymakers across the political spectrum continue to demonstrate their understanding that early learning needs to be a national priority because of the benefits it brings to children, their families, their communities, and the country as a whole. Investing in programs for young children from low-income families, such as Head Start, Child Care and the Preschool Development Grants, can improve education, health and social outcomes in addition to decreased government spending.

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. www.ffyf.org