Early Learning Challenge

The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) is a grant competition to increase the quality of early childhood programs and increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children, birth to five, in high-quality programs. CLASP will continue to provide updated information on the Early Learning Challenge on this page. Additionally, CLASP staff are available to provide technical assistance that is responsive to the needs of individual states on any aspect of the Early Learning Challenge. Please contact Hannah Matthews for technical assistance. 

Read our Meeting the Early Learning Challenge paper series: 


Dec 22, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By Hannah Matthews

There’s no question that 2014 was a monumental year for early childhood policy. After a tumultuous end of 2013 brought about in part by a partial federal government shutdown, 2014 began with Congress approving a more than $1 billion increase in federal investments in child care and early education, including $500 million to support Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) partnerships to increase the supply of high-quality infant-toddler care and $250 million for Preschool Development Grants to advance high-quality state pre-kindergarten programs. While applicants prepared submissions during the year, CLASP worked with states in particular to understand the importance of better state subsidy policies to support successful partnerships.

Following the significant budgetary win, the even-more momentous CCDBG reauthorization began with passage in the Senate in March and concluded with the President’s signature in November. After 18 years, significant changes were made to the child care subsidy program to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care and make the subsidy system work better for low-income children and families. The bipartisan reauthorization had strong support in the House and Senate. We are gratified that CLASP’s voice has been important to the conversation, with many ideas that we promoted about continuity of child care assistance included in the final law, and our Executive Director having testified at a House hearing on the reauthorization. The final FY 2015 spending bill agreed to earlier this month increased CCDBG funding by $75 million. While this was an important message of support for the Congressional reauthorization, it still leaves states with large budget gaps in order to implement provisions of the new law.

And finally, on the heels of a new law and new early childhood investments, CLASP was excited to be a part of the White House’s Early Education Summit to bring much-needed attention to the importance of investment in child care and early education. At the Summit, recipients of the Preschool Development Grants and EHS-CC partnership grant competitions were announced, sending the resources committed last January to states and local communities. 

With these tremendous accomplishments, this year brought sobering moments as well. In February, CLASP first reported the slow decline in the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care, and in October we reported, based on FY 2013 data, the number had reached a 15-year low. The program has not served so few children since 1997. Federal and state spending on child care assistance fell to a 10-year low. In September, the US Census Bureau released annual poverty data showing that while overall child poverty fell, an unacceptably high number of children, in particular young children and Black and Hispanic children, continue to experience the profound impacts of being consigned to a childhood in poverty.

Taken together, it’s clear that 2015 will be a year with challenges ahead, but great opportunity and potential as well. The work yet undone motivates us to do more in the coming year. Look for more resources from CLASP as we turn our attention to CCDBG implementation, including the need for significant new resources to cover implementation costs and to stem the tide on the decline of children getting help. Also in 2014, we’ve made efforts to seize opportunities with the greatest potential to improve the lives of poor children and families. In doing so, we brought attention –and worked towards solutions – on several important issues including maternal depression and job schedule challenges. We will continue to find the opportunities ripe for positive change in 2015. CLASP wishes you the best for a happy holiday season and the promise of good things to come for young children.

In case you missed them, here are some selected publications from the CLASP Child Care and Early Education team in 2014:

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