Statement from First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Kris Perry on the passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act

For the third time this year – and in its first act since the Nov. 4 election – Congress has chosen to prioritize early childhood education, this time with final passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG). The First Five Years Fund is thrilled that CCDBG was taken up as one of the first bipartisan legislative agreements during the lame-duck session and that the bill is on its way to the President’s desk. We applaud the strong show of support that Congress has exemplified throughout this process to improve and reauthorize this critical funding stream for child care programs.

Last reauthorized in 1996, CCDBG is an important piece of legislation that will support working families while recognizing the important role of child care providers in a child’s development. The law aims to strengthen safety in child care settings by requiring all providers to comply with state health, safety, and fire standards and undergo annual inspections. Especially important is reform that improves the consistency of care provided. Children who initially qualify for a subsidy receive care for at least a year — regardless of changes to family income or work, training or education status. Provider training on child behavioral supports to reduce expulsions from early childhood programs is also required. A 16.5 percent increase in funding over six years has been authorized to help cover some of the costs of implementing these new provisions.

Today, we especially thank Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and Reps. John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN) and David Loebsack (D-IA)  for championing reauthorization of the program.

CCDBG reflects the overwhelming agreement by researchers that early childhood education produces substantial positive social and economic returns. Research from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that investing in high-quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children from birth to five yields a 7-10 percent return—per child, per year—through improved education, health and societal outcomes and the reduced need for social spending. Just this week, more than 500 academics and researchers, including Prof. Heckman, Dr. W. Steven Barnett, Dr. Linda Darling Hammond and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, came together to sign an open letter urging policymakers on all levels of government to support greater investments in high-quality early childhood education.

Based on today’s passage, it’s clear that policymakers are listening to this overwhelming evidence and aim to ensure that early childhood education remains a priority in Washington. CCDBG adds to the launch of the $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition which has generated interest from 35 states, the extension of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program in March, and the more than $1 billion increase in early childhood education funding following the federal appropriations deal in January – all major wins despite this year’s fractured Congress.

Momentum is building outside of Washington as well. Republican and Democratic governors from Michigan to California have made early childhood education a top priority – finding funds for birth to five programs because they know the importance of early childhood education and have seen first-hand the results in better education, family and economic outcomes.

While research shows again and again that these efforts are more than worth it, we also know that voters see the benefits of investing in kids from age birth to five. A national poll by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research found that voters place children getting a strong start in life as one of the highest national priorities, second only to increasing jobs and economic growth. A recent Gallup poll found similar results – 70 percent of Americans favor federal investments to ensure high-quality preschool programs are available for all children.

FFYF commends the efforts being made at all levels of government to innovate, expand and strengthen homegrown early childhood programs. CCDBG is a step in the right direction, but our sights are set higher. We need to listen to voters and truly step up efforts to support states and communities as they continue to invest in our youngest learners through expanded partnerships and increased federal investments. Our kids can’t wait.

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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.