Policy Resource

Stop-Gap Funding Bill Still Targets Kids

Feb 28, 2011

With funding for the federal government set to run out this Friday, the House of Representatives has put an offer on the table for a two-week extension of the current continuing resolution with $4 billion in cuts.

Because the cuts are focused on programs proposed for elimination in the President’s 2012 budget and funds used for earmarks, the Senate may find the proposal more palatable than being blamed for a government shutdown.

Before Senators go along with the proposal wholesale, they should look at how it impacts children. For example, the House is proposing to eliminate Striving Readers, which in the past focused literacy efforts on middle and high school students, and Even Start, which supported family literacy. True, the President has proposed eliminating these particular programs, but not their funding. Instead, he would use it for a new comprehensive literacy program for children from birth through grade 12. The 2010 appropriations legislation began this process last year, and the initiative is now underway. Significant for infants and toddlers, this new literacy approach recognizes the importance of early language and literacy in creating the foundation for children to become successful readers and writers in elementary school. The House bill somewhat disingenuously claims just to be following the President’s proposal, but that is only half the story. In fact, it would stop our nation’s literacy efforts cold. For more on early language and literacy, watch our video A Window to the World.

All in all, more than a quarter of the cuts ($1.5 billion) in the package proposed by the House would come from programs in the appropriations bill that funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education–$890 million from Education alone. Many of the cuts within HHS would target funds used for projects funded through earmarks with purposes such as helping parents find child care, preventing child abuse, reducing substance abuse and promoting better mental health, and providing other social services.

The House leadership has hinted that short-term bills with smaller cuts might be an alternative to the massive package of cuts both broad and deep passed two weeks ago. A billion here, a billion there might not seem like so much, but as the late Senator Everett Dirksen would say, sooner or later it adds up to real money—and quite possibly, real pain for children and families.

The best course for infant-toddler advocates is to continue letting their Senators and Representatives know that government belt-tightening often means that babies, young children, and families in their district are the ones making the sacrifices. It is vitally important that federal policymakers continue to receive calls urging them to protect children from cuts, and especially to support sustained funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care to prevent 368,000 children from losing early childhood education services and enable parents to work.

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