In Focus: Infants and Toddlers

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.

Apr 1, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

CLASP Publishes Guide for States on CCDBG Reauthorization

By Hannah Matthews

Today, CLASP and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released an implementation guide for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization.

In November 2014, with broad bipartisan support, Congress reauthorized CCDBG (the major federal child care program) for the first time 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.

Key provisions in the law support the following goals:

  • Protecting the health and safety of children in care through more consistent standards and monitoring of standards;
  • Improving the quality of care, including through increased supports for child care providers; and
  • Enabling families to more easily access child care assistance that supports stable and continuous care and that can be coordinated with other programs.

This 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. It also includes a detailed chart compar­ing specific provisions of the new law with those of the previous law, an implementation timeline, a checklist indicating state compliance with select provisions of the law, a summary of the law, and state-by-state information on CCDBG funding and children served.

To fulfill the goals of the legislation, states will need to be strategic and thoughtful about implementation, including paying careful attention to the funding necessary to carry out the provisions. Unlike previous reautho­rizations, this law was not accompanied with a guarantee of new federal funds—and in many states, the new law will have substantial costs. Additional federal and state resources will be essential to ensure that states do not make tradeoffs that would undermine the reauthorization's goals and further reduce the number of children served, which is already at historic lows.

To achieve the full vision of the CCDBG reauthorization and avoid 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.

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

Register for the CLASP/NWLC CCDBG Implementation webinar on April 15, from 2-3pm EDT >>

Mar 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

House Passes Important Extension for Home Visiting

By Stephanie Schmit

Yesterday, the U. S. House of Representatives passed the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,” which provided a bipartisan, long-term solution for Medicare payments to physicians (this legislation is referred to as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) repeal bill–and more informally as the “doc fix” bill) and reauthorized for an additional two years the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), scheduled to expire in September. The legislation also reauthorized the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program—which is slated to expire March 31, 2015—at current funding levels of $400 million per year. Overall, the legislation is an important win for vulnerable children and families across the country.

MIECHV, a federal and state partnership that has had broad bipartisan support, provides voluntary, evidence-based family- and child-related home visiting programs in every state. The bill will extend the program to March 2017. MIECHV targets high-risk families who are most likely to benefit from intensive home visiting services, which use trained professionals (often nurses, social workers, or parent educators) to help parents acquire the skills to promote their children’s development. The home visiting programs also help families connect to necessary services, such as health care or community resources, and monitor child development and progress on developmental milestones.

Our recent report, based on interviews with 20 states and 2 tribal grantees, highlights many early successes from MIECHV and demonstrates how its federal funding is being used to expand home visiting services to reach more families while also building the infrastructure to support well-coordinated and effective home visiting programs. Corresponding state profiles describe how grantees are evaluating the direct impact of home visiting and expanding and improving services for vulnerable communities. Complementing our qualitative research is a recently released brief and series of state profiles from the federal Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which administers MIECHV, highlighting quantitative data and other demographic information. The report shows that MIECHV home visiting programs in all 50 states, DC, and five territories served 115,500 parents and children (from birth to kindergarten entry) in 787 counties in FY 2014. Additionally, the first report from a federally mandated study on the program was recently released and showed early findings on what home visiting models are being used, who the recipients are, what needs they have, and other demographic information. With the two-year extension for MIECHV included in the House bill, continued data collection and reporting can assess the value of the program for vulnerable young children and families, adding to the growing body of evidence that includes this latest data.

The House took an important step by extending MIECHV, but continued funding depends on the Senate taking similar action. President Obama has already signaled that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk. MIECHV has brought evidence-based home visiting services to more vulnerable children in the most at-risk communities. Our report has shown how essential MIECHV has been for the development of statewide home visiting systems, with states building the infrastructure needed to support lasting, effective programs. Research validates the notion that home visiting programs can enhance parenting and support young children’s early development--and can do so with significant public cost savings. The Senate should pass the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 and continue its commitment to investing in evidence-based home visiting to promote positive, long-term outcomes for children, families, and the nation.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill upon return from recess in April.

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