A Billion Dollar Boost for Child Care and Early Learning
By Hannah Matthews
On January 14, 2014, Congress unveiled an omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2014, which began on October 1, 2013. This was the next step in the budget deal agreed to last October to reopen the government after 16 days of a partial shutdown. Included in the bipartisan budget agreement was a partial repeal of sequestration, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect at the start of 2013. The final spending numbers included in the omnibus bill do not restore pre-sequestration funding levels to every program subject to those cuts nor do they address several years of disinvestment that many domestic discretionary programs have experienced.
Yet, in a very tight budget, early childhood programs made some incredible headway. The sequestration cuts to both Head Start and child care were reversed and additional funding was made available for both programs. Overall, new child care and early education investments total $1.4 billion, including:
- A $154 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) restoring dollars cut by sequestration and expanding access to child care for low-income working families. The child care funding includes $296 million to increase the quality of care, of which $109 million is intended to improve the quality of infant and toddler care.
- A $1.025 billion increase for Head Start, of which $25 million is intended to support implementation of the Head Start designation renewal system; $100 million to support a cost-of-living adjustment for Head Start grantees; and $500 million to support Early Head Start – child care partnerships. The partnerships will provide funds to new or existing Early Head Start programs to partner with child care providers to increase access to high-quality, comprehensive child care and early education for children from birth through age 3.
- $250 million for a new round of Race to the Top funding, which would include grants to states to develop, enhance or expand high-quality preschool programs that include comprehensive services and family engagement for low-income families.
Congress will vote on this bill in the coming days. In the meantime, we can celebrate that policymakers recognize the importance of investing in our future through early childhood. There is more work ahead to ensure that these funds are used in the most effective way possible to meet the needs of vulnerable young children without access to high-quality early education. CLASP looks forward to working at the federal, state and local levels on that charge.