Many think that nothing can get done in Washington. That’s simply not true—at least when you have an issue as important as early childhood education. President Obama has featured early childhood education in two State of the Union addresses. Congress is responding: last fall, we saw the introduction of the bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act last fall. In January, we received an increase of $1.4 billion for early childhood education programs. And last week, the first education legislation to go to the floor this Congress was the bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2013 (S. 1086) another step forward for America’s children.
Momentum is building outside Washington as well. Governors of red and blue states 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 see first-hand the results in better education, family and economic outcomes.
CCDBG hasn’t been reauthorized in 18 years. So why now? Because early childhood education is a bipartisan issue, one area of common ground among federal and state legislators who believe it is essential for the future of our country to give each child a strong start in life. Reauthorization of CCDBG was led by one such bipartisan team. Everyone in the early childhood community owes special thanks to Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for championing this week’s vote.
Let’s celebrate all the progress—and get back to work. CCDBG is just one step in a much larger process of making sure each child has the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in school and life. We need reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) NOW to guarantee that at-risk parents and children receive voluntary home-based supports that build stronger families and healthy, productive children. We need to pass the Strong Start for America’s Children Act to help states and communities provide greater access to high quality early childhood education programs. And we need funding for Preschool Development Grants to assure quality.
We can get this done together. Where there’s will, there’s funding. On Tuesday, New York state prioritized over $2 billion for early childhood education without raising taxes. If one state can do that, certainly the federal government can manage to provide $75 billion to support state efforts around the country. Ensuring that each child gets a strong start in life is something that federal, state and local government can’t do alone—but they can do it together. Let’s make that happen.