Policy Resource

New Early Childhood Initiative About to Launch

May 23, 2011

Federal departments are putting the finishing touches on plans to spend the fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011) funding provided in the final continuing resolution passed in April.

Most exciting from the early care and education perspective is a planned announcement on Wednesday by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services of a new competition in support of early learning. The Continuing resolution included $700 million to extend the Race to the Top education program and created a new early learning initiative. This initiative, the subject of Wednesday’s announcement, will increase the number of low-income or disadvantaged children, birth to five, in high quality early childhood settings and create and enhance state integrated systems. The two Departments will jointly administer the program and decide how the program will be implemented.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the final spending numbers for the programs it administers, submitting its FY 2011 Operating Plan to Congress. Head Start/Early Head Start and child care received small boosts over 2010 levels, enough in Head Start’s case to enable children served with expansion funds to continue in the program. Other important HHS programs received cuts, including: community health centers (-$600 million), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (-$51 million), and the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant (-$4 million). Agencies will work to minimize the effects on these lower funding levels, which run through September 30, 2011.

Meanwhile, we are still awaiting the next move on spending levels for 2012. This week the Senate will vote on two budget plans: the budget resolution passed by the House last month, and President Obama’s budget plan released in February. Neither is expected to have the votes needed for adoption. In the midst of this debate, babies and toddlers still remain at risk. The President’s February plan supported increased funding for many programs critical to the healthy development of young children. Since that time, however, discussions about setting long-term deficit reduction goals have dominated Washington politics. This focus could still leave discretionary programs such as Early Head Start, child care, and early intervention as perpetual targets.

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