So much has happened in the last year. So much has been accomplished. So much more needs to be done. That’s the story as we come into this year’s State of the Union address, where it is highly likely that President Obama will once again call for a historic investment in early childhood education.
Almost a year ago, President Obama put early childhood education on the national stage when he used the State of the Union to say that the federal government should help states provide low- and moderate-income families with access to quality early childhood education. National and state early childhood advocates seized that opportunity with an unprecedented effort that has raised awareness and billions of dollars in federal funding.
Let’s look back at the highlights:
We came together. A diverse group of advocates, leaders from business, law enforcement and the military, states, experts and policymakers—from both the right and the left—joined together, got organized and collaborated to take the President’s ball and push it uphill. In an extraordinary example of effective collective action for early education, campaigns such as Grow America Stronger and Strong Start for Children worked with hundreds of organizations and influencers around the nation to hold the Administration to its promise—and help them deliver on it.
Voters spoke. FFYF’s bipartisan poll conducted earlier this year showed that 70 percent of Americans support a plan to help states and local communities provide better early childhood education programs to children from birth to age 5—and want Congress to act now.
Appropriators responded. Early childhood education was one of the biggest winners in the recent federal appropriations bill – receiving a more than $1.5 billion increase in federal funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care and grants to states. That’s huge. Sequestration cuts were restored and then some. Despite fiscal constraints, appropriators placed their faith in the power of early childhood education, making the youngest American’s the biggest winners in the budgetary battle.
The bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act was introduced. Through the leadership of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Congress took a vital step in boosting our economy and supporting our nation’s youngest learners by introducing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. A bipartisan bill that acted upon President Obama’s proposal from the 2013 State of the Union, Strong Start will help states and communities build and expand access to quality early childhood education programs.
Together, we’ve made incredible progress. But we’re not done, not by a long shot. President Obama will continue to make early childhood education his priority. Republican and Democratic governors have already featured early childhood education in their State of the State addresses. Our hard-won appropriations victory only lasts for a year. And Strong Start for America’s Children is our foothold in Congress for creating much needed federal investments in effective state programs.
We are all urging President Obama to double down on early childhood education in his 2014 State of the Union Address. That means we all have to redouble our efforts this year. We fought long odds and came away with significant victories. The past 12 months have not only shown us how much we can accomplish, but how we can accomplish more.
Passing an effective, fully funded federal early childhood initiative is a marathon, not a sprint. But we have momentum in our favor and the finish line is closer than ever before. So if you’re in DC for the State of the Union, stop by our viewing party at RedRocks to get hydrated with other early childhood supporters. Then get ready to toss your cups and hit the ground running.