Let’s give our federal legislators a round of applause: under severe budget constraints, the House and Senate approved a final funding bill with big investments in early learning.
Here are big three ways that Congress got it right:
They reversed the indiscriminate sequestration cuts. The funding level for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), $2.36 billion, is about $154 million over last year’s post-sequester levels, meaning it restores approximately $115 million in sequester cuts and provides an additional $39 million. For Head Start, the increase is $1.025 billion over the post-sequester level—restoring about $400 million in cuts and providing approximately $625 million in additional funding, $500 million of which is allocated to Early Head Start, which HHS can use for Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships.
They invested in the youngest and most vulnerable, and in quality. The Early Head Start/Child Care partnerships will dramatically improve access to high-quality care for infants and toddlers by helping child care programs meet Early Head Start standards. Given all we know about the importance of those earliest years and the dearth of high-quality care for low-income infants and toddlers, this is a particularly smart and impactful investment.
They incentivized states to invest in preschool. Within the Race to the Top program, the bill includes $250 million for competitive awards to states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs and early childhood education programs for children from low- and moderate-income families. One type of grants will be specifically targeted at low-capacity states with small or no preschool programs, while another will be directed toward higher-capacity states. Awardees will have flexibility to sub-grant to a range of types of providers, to invest in raising standards, and to invest in the early childhood workforce.
So let’s give credit where credit is due. If your legislator voted for the final spending act—which most did—let him or her know how much you appreciate their smart investments in kids. And give yourself a big pat on the back while you’re at it. This is a major victory that we can all be proud of.