Congress has finally drafted a budget to cover all federal spending for FY 2014 — an omnibus appropriations bill — and thanks to the growing recognition of the importance of investing in high-quality early care and education, and tireless efforts by advocates, it includes significant increases in funding for early learning, despite a very austere budget context.
- Head Start received an increase of $1.025 billion to restore the funding cut by the sequester and provide programs with a cost-of-living increase. Of this increase, $500 million is set aside for new Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships. Early Head Start partnership funding will be available to every state and programs will compete for the funding within each state. These grants will allow new or existing Early Head Start programs to partner with local child care centers and family child care providers serving low-income infants and toddlers. Funding will be available to help child care programs meet the Early Head Start standards and for training and technical assistance.
- The Child Care and Development Block Grant received a $154 million increase. CCDBG continues to have set-asides for after-school and resource and referral activities, a national toll-free hotline, quality improvement activities, infant/toddler care, and research.
- A new initiative for preschool development grants received $250 million in funding. The funding will be awarded competitively to states to build their capacity to develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs, including comprehensive services and family engagement, for preschool-age children from families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. States can subgrant funds to local educational agencies and other early learning providers, such as Head Start programs and licensed child care providers, or consortia of providers, for preschool programs. Local educational agencies that receive subgrant funding must collaborate with early learning providers, and early learning providers that receive subgrant funding must collaborate with local educational agencies. Up to 3 percent of the funding for this early care and education initiative can be used for technical assistance, evaluation, and other national activities. The program will be jointly administered by the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. There will be two types of grants to states: one to states that do not fund preschool or have only small preschool programs and another to states that already fund sizeable preschool programs. Funds may be used to assist early childhood teachers with attaining higher credentials and degrees. States receiving awards must ensure that any use of assessment follows the National Research Council’s recommendations on appropriate use and practices for assessment of young children. Funds cannot be used for renovation or construction of facilities.
The additional funding included in the omnibus appropriations measure, which Congress will be voting on within the next few days, will enable more families to have access to the high-quality early care and education opportunities that parents need to be able to work and that children need to learn and succeed. While we are still far behind where we need to be, this is a very encouraging step forward.