Federal Funding Bill Prioritizes Restoring Cuts to Early Childhood Programs

Federal investments in early childhood education would see some restoration under a budget bill that passed through the U.S. House and Senate and now moves on to President Obama. The omnibus appropriations bill, a bipartisan spending outline for several federal government agencies, would provide much-needed support (roughly a $1.5 billion increase from post-sequestration levels) to a variety of services that support low-income children including a full restoration of cuts made to Head Start by sequestration.

Some of the proposed federal spending for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (a $154 million increase) could help restore funding to Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), which helps Colorado families cover the high costs of care so they can work towards self-sufficiency while their children learn in safe and stimulating environments.

The federal spending bill would also allow the Education and Health and Human Services departments to jointly administer a new $250 million program for states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from families at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. These grants are part of the Strong Start for America’s Children proposal. We’re encouraged that federal leaders are making young children a priority.

Federal “Strong Start” Legislation Would Improve Early Learning Access

Wednesday was an exciting day for early learning advocates around the country. A bipartisan group of legislators introduced the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.” The proposal is a strong statement about the importance of early learning and development for all children, birth through preschool. The act would support state and federal partnerships to improve access to high quality preschool and early learning opportunities for children.

pre-K billChild at work at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning

Specifically, it would provide matching grants to states to invest in expanding both access to and the quality of services for 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. States would also be able to use funds to expand preschool services, improve the quality of programs and set aside a portion of funds to target grants for high quality early care and education for infants and toddlers. In addition, a separate set of grants would ensure that more children birth through age 3 would have access to quality early learning experiences.

Given Colorado’s extensive waiting list for the Colorado Preschool Program and the high cost of quality child care and preschool that many families face, the proposal would be a welcome step forward to ensure all children enter kindergarten ready to learn. According to a bipartisan poll conducted earlier this year, 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 five—and want Congress to act now. We look forward to monitoring the progress of this proposal in the coming months.

Where Do You See Quality Early Learning in Action?

As part of their Strong Start for Children Campaign, the National Women’s Law Center is seeking your stories on high quality child care in action. We know that high quality early learning has a tremendous impact on young children: ensuring their success in school and in life. This is an opportunity for you as a parent, teacher, child care provider or health care professional to share your story on the impact early learning programs like Head Start, home visiting and other quality programs have on the lives of children. These stories will be gathered and turned into a book to give to congressional leaders. For more information on how to share your story, visit the National Women’s Law Center.