In Focus: Pre-kindergarten

Feb 9, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

President’s Budget Proposes Deep Investment in Child Care and Early Education

By Stephanie Schmit

President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget proposal continued his call over many years for significant investments in child care and early education. This proposal sends an important message about the significance of investing in the early years to help ensure young children's success in life and support families' economic security.

Key investments in the budget proposal include:

  • Child Care. The President’s budget proposes a $200 million increase in discretionary funding (the funding set each year in the appropriations process) to help states implement the changes required by the 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization. This funding would include a $40 million competitive pilot to build the supply of high-quality child care in rural areas and during non-traditional hours. The proposal also includes $3.7 billion in additional mandatory dollars in FY17, as a first installment of investments totaling $82 billion over 10 years, to ensure high-quality child care access for low- and moderate-income families with children under age 4. Additionally, the budget proposes that child care funded directly through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds meet the same health and safety standards established in the CCDBG reauthorization.
  • Head Start. The proposal includes an increase of $434 million in discretionary dollars for Head Start. This includes funding for increasing the number of children in a full-day, full-year program ($292 million), maintaining the current number of children and quality in Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships ($10 million), and providing a cost of living increase ($132 million) for Head  Start programs.
  • Preschool Development Grants. The proposal includes a $100 million increase for preschool development grants, which would provide continuation funding for existing grantees and new funds under the newly authorized Preschool Development Grants included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.
  • Preschool for All and Home Visiting. The proposal includes $75 billion—to be funded with an increased tobacco tax –to support access to high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds from low-income families and evidence-based home visiting. The budget also includes $20 million for a new initiative to provide home visiting in rural and tribal areas that will be jointly administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). The budget provides an increase of $35 million for IDEA preschool grants and $45 million for the IDEA Infants and Families program.  
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The budget proposal includes an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under age five. The proposal triples the maximum credit available for families to $3,000 per child and makes the full CDCTC available to families with incomes of up to $120,000.

The investments laid out in President Obama’s budget proposal would be historic and set an important vision for the country. The budget proposal, however, is a blueprint; Congress will ultimately be responsible for setting funding levels for the federal budget. In the coming weeks, congressional leadership will lay out its vision for investments. We encourage Congress to affirm its commitment to continued investments in child care and early education. In particular, states will need significant new CCDBG funds in 2017, beyond the proposed discretionary increase, to implement the bipartisan reauthorization. These investments are critical to ensure that the goals of the CCDBG reauthorization are met and ensure the success of young children who will become the future leaders and workers of our country. 

Dec 9, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Creates Revised Preschool Development Grant Program

By Hannah Matthews

Following passage in the U. S. House of Representatives last week, today the Senate passed a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or No Child Left Behind Act. Included in the bill, now renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a new authorization for a redesigned Preschool Development Grant (PDG) program. In FY 2014 and 2015, Congress appropriated $250 million each year in funding for grants administered jointly by the Departments of Education (Ed) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to support state efforts to expand access to high-quality preschool for young children. To date, 18 states have received PDGs to build or enhance high-quality preschool program infrastructure or expand access to high-quality preschool programs.

ESSA authorizes $250 million annually for a new PDG program that differs significantly from the current program:

  • The program is to be administered by HHS, jointly with Ed.
  • The goals of the program include assisting states to develop, update, or implement a strategic plan that facilitates collaboration and coordination among child care and early education programs and to encourage partnerships among child care and early education programs.
  • One year grants may be awarded on a competitive basis with priority for states that have not previously received a PDG. States may use PDGs to conduct a needs assessment and develop a strategic plan for improving collaboration and coordination among early childhood programs and for quality improvement activities.
  • Grants may be renewed for a maximum of three years. In the first year of a renewal grant, states may subgrant no more than 60 percent of funds to early childhood programs to increase access to high-quality early education programs with that percent increasing to 75 percent in years two and three.
  • The bill permits states that currently have PDGs to continue their activities under the current terms of the program, at the discretion of HHS and Ed. They may also be considered for renewal grants (for a maximum of three years) under the new program.

The bill limits the ways in which HHS and Ed can implement the program, including restrictions on specifying, defining, or prescribing early learning and development guidelines; measures or indicators of quality; teacher and staff qualifications; class sizes and ratios; and other standards. This is a significant departure from the current PDG program that includes robust quality standards for states about design of their programs, such as high staff qualifications, low child-staff ratios and small class sizes, full-day services, and the provision of comprehensive services for children.

In addition to the PDG program, language related to early learning activities is included throughout ESSA. The bill is awaiting the President’s signature and when it becomes law, we will work to ensure that ESSA funds, those targeted for PDGs and other dollars in the bill with allowable uses for early education, are used in ways that best support increased access to high-quality early learning for low-income children.

Look for further CLASP analysis on ESSA in the coming days.

Jul 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Missed Opportunity: Young children and disadvantaged youth deserve more attention in ESEA Reauthorization

By Kisha Bird and Christina Walker

Earlier this month, on July 16th, the U.S. Senate passed its Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act ( S.1177), with an overwhelming show of bi-partisan support. The bill, brokered by Senate leaders Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), includes important provisions, such as:

  • requiring goals for achievement and high school graduation;
  • specifying the collection of data related to educational resources, including per-pupil expenditures;
  • disaggregating student achievement data; and
  • allowing funds to be used to improve early childhood education programs and to promote better coordination through agreements with Head Start agencies and other entities to carry out these activities.

However, the bill fails to direct or provide resources to local districts and states to implement effective strategies to improve student achievement and address access and equity gaps for poor and low-income students. In particular, the bill does not include a dedicated funding stream for pre-k or for dropout prevention and recovery for students in the middle and high school grades.

On July 8th, the House passed its ESEA reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Similarly, H.R. 5 does not target funding to address these issues and fails to include protections for poor and vulnerable students.  H.R. 5 would also divert much-needed funds from the highest poverty schools and districts through the “portability” concept. This would allow Title I funds, which have the express purpose of assisting public schools with high concentrations of poverty and high-need students, to follow a child to any public or private school and would undermine critical targeting of limited Title I funds.

Passed during the civil rights era in 1965, ESEA’s purpose has always been to provide educational opportunity to all students and provide funding to districts to better serve poor and low-income students. Today, there is a high number of children in poverty and they are disproportionately of color. Poor and low-income children and youth have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood, and they are also more likely to drop out of high school. ESEA reauthorization represents an important opportunity to address equity gaps and achievement among poor students and students of color.

In particular, ESEA should include dedicated funding that would target low-performing middle and high schools and implement proven dropout prevention and recovery strategies to better support struggling students and those who have dropped out. The on-time high school graduation rate has steadily improved to 81 percent for the class of 2013. Strategies such as early identification and intervention approaches for middle school students who feed into high schools with low graduation rates, and the growing number of dropout recovery and reengagement efforts in communities across the country have no doubt helped to spur these positive changes. Federal policy should build on this momentum, not abandon it. Too many students still fail to graduate from high school on time, and students of color still face unacceptable graduation gaps. ESEA should also help states and local districts tackle institutional challenges in supporting students to be college and career ready by providing resources and direction to improve course availability and gaps, counselor ratios, and teacher quality in high-poverty schools. At a time, when a growing majority of all U.S. jobs will require some postsecondary education, a focus on these issues is critical to our future economy.

Furthermore, high-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. Despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs. Both the Senate and the House bills stopped short of providing a dedicated funding stream to provide high-quality early childhood education through a mixed-delivery system for children ages birth through five. Moreover, the bills did not include strong accountability language, such as improved data collection policies and procedures that require programs to report how many children under the age of school entry are served by ESEA funds; which services these children receive and the total expenditures related to this age group; and the adoption of developmentally appropriate, early learning assessments.

The Senate and House bills are now headed to the conference committee charged with reconciling differences and drafting  a compromise bill that is acceptable to both houses of Congress and that the President can sign.  While it is unlikely, the choice to advance important protections for poor and vulnerable students and fund strategies to address equity gaps among students of color is still a possibility.

site by Trilogy Interactive