Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee made an important and exciting step toward an historic investment in early learning. Building on work done earlier this week by the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education, they marked up a funding bill that would:

  • Leverage existing Early Head Start and child care resources by providing $1.6 billion in funding to expand Early Head Start through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. This will serve more infants and toddlers, and maintain quality in the existing Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
  • Allot $750 million for Preschool Development Grants which will enable states to build and strengthen local preschool systems and opportunities, as laid out by the President’s Preschool for All proposal.
  • Provide an additional $176 million for the Child Care and Development Fund to promote high quality care and development.
  • Support young children with disabilities and their families through $21 million in additional funding to strengthen statewide early intervention systems.

That’s a total investment of $2.5 billion—exceeding even what we were able to achieve in the 2009 stimulus package—and it would it all support improving quality, building systems, and improving the educational, health, social, and economic outcomes of young children and our nation as a whole. it’s a big step, and an important signal: Congress is taking this movement seriously and recognizing the wisdom of investing in the earliest years. We should all send a big thank you to Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, Ranking Member Sen. Jerry Moran, Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, and Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby for their strong leadership and unwavering support.

This is the first step in a long process. The House of Representatives may mark up their appropriations bills soon, and the numbers there will be much, much more challenging. Each subcommittee has 26 percent less funding to allocate than last year; flat funding for the programs we care about would be a victory. Funding for other significant pieces of the Preschool for All proposal, including $15 billion for home visiting and $75 billion for preschool, will have to be addressed by other committees.

So, with just a few short weeks before Congress heads home for August recess, we know we have a lot to do to keep the drumbeat of support echoing for early learning throughout the months ahead. As part of our work on the Grow America Stronger campaign, we’ve assembled a set of resources that we hope will help your outreach efforts. We need all the op-eds, letters to the editor, e-blasts, and social media chatter we can muster, and I hope you’ll let me and my team know how we can help you.

Thanks for all that you have done to make this day possible—onward!