In Focus: Child Care Subsidies

Jul 16, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment Calls for an Investment in Early Learning

By Rhiannon Reeves and Christina Walker

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the first time since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, is currently being debated on the Senate floor. Earlier today, the Senate voted against Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment, which would have created a five-year innovative federal-state partnership to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children across the birth-to-age-five continuum. More specifically, the amendment provided for:

  • Access to high-quality preschool by providing more than $30 billion in paid-for mandatory formula and grant funding to states—with a required state match—for high-quality, full-day preschool for four-year-old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Support for early learning quality partnerships that meet the high-quality performance standards of Early Head Start and blend federal funds to provide high-quality, full-day child care.
  • Promotion of increased funding to serve children with disabilities in early childhood settings by increasing the authorization level of programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities and of preschool grants for children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities  Education Act (IDEA).
  • Maintained support for home visiting programs and called for their continuation through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program.

High-quality early education experiences have been linked to school readiness and the lifetime employment and earning potential of low-income children. Despite these linkages, some of the most vulnerable low- and moderate-income families in this country still lack access to high-quality child care options for their youngest children. The Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment further proposed to advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education systems across the country that ultimately support the goals of ESEA. 

Last week, the House passed its version of the ESEA reauthorization bill called the Student Success Act, which differs from the Senate bill under consideration. If the Senate passes the Every Child Achieves Act, Congress will need to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions through a Conference Committee; therefore, the provisions of a final ESEA bill would remain to be negotiated.

Earlier this year, CLASP released recommendations for improving ESEA by increasing access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and promoting provisions that help youth succeed academically and ensure they are ready for college and career. We urge Congress, in working toward a final bill, to bolster support for vulnerable young children and disadvantaged youth because reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. The introduction of the Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment was a good first step in that direction.

Jun 9, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Implementing the CCDBG Reauthorization: State-by-State Fact Sheets

By Rhiannon Reeves

Previously, CLASP and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released an implementation guide for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization. To accompany the guide, CLASP and NWLC have also created a series of fact sheets summarizing state-specific information related to the new law’s requirements in each state as outlined in the guide.

On November 19, 2014, President Obama, with broad bipartisan support from Congress, signed into law the CCDBG Act of 2014; its first reauthorization since 1996. The new law strengthens CCDBG’s dual role as a major early childhood education program and a work support for low-income families, supporting goals that aim to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care and make it less burdensome for families to get and keep child care assistance. While these policy changes may improve access to high-quality child care for low-income families, they depend on strategic and thoughtful state implementation and resources. 

The implementation guide is designed to help policymak­ers and advocates gain a better understanding of what is entailed in fully implementing the law. It summarizes and analyzes key sections of the reauthorization, offering recommendations and areas of caution for states. These new companion fact sheets provide a snapshot of selected provisions of the CCDBG reauthorization at the state level along with each state’s current policies in related areas such as eligibility, background checks, and health and safety requirements, based on the most recently available data.

For states to achieve the full potential of the CCDBG reauthorization while avoiding tradeoffs that harm children and families—and the child care providers who serve them—thoughtful implementation and new resources will be essential. CLASP and NWLC will continue to work closely with those involved in implementing the law in states and at the federal level to realize the potential benefits of the reauthorization.

Access your state’s fact sheet here>>

Read Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization>>

Jun 8, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Increased Investments in Child Care Assistance Needed to Support Working Families

By Christina Walker

Quality child care enables parents to work or go to school while also providing young children with the early childhood education experiences needed for healthy development. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families, increases the number of low-income children in high-quality care, supporting their development while strengthening their families’ economic security.

A new CLASP fact sheet provides an overview of the research showing why child care assistance is so important to low-income, vulnerable families. The fact sheet also highlights the need for increased investments in these programs, as the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care has been on the decline and reached a 15-year low in 2013. Spending on child care, which includes federal and state CCDBG and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, has also steadily decreased and, in 2013, reached the lowest levels since 2002.

The majority of parents with young children work. More than 30 percent of poor children and half of low-income children—living in families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level—lived in families with at least one worker employed full time, year-round. Parents are working hard, yet are barely able to make ends meet. Higher-income families with young children spend, on average, 8 percent of their household income on child care, while poor families who do not get any help spend 36 percent.

With an already-significant unmet need, increased federal investments in CCDBG should be a top priority for federal policymakers. In November 2014, CCDBG was reauthorized for the first time in 18 years. While this was an important step forward for improving the quality of child care, substantial funding increases are necessary to implement the costly provisions in the reauthorization and to reach more families. Evidence shows that child care subsidies are associated with sustainable employment for parents and improved child outcomes. State and federal policymakers should seize the opportunity of last fall’s bipartisan reauthorization in order to increase investments that support working families and their children.

Read the fact sheet here >>

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