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Senate Appropriations Signals Support for Continued Investments in Kids
On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee gave children some good news, including increased funding for several children’s programs in the bill that sets FY 2013 spending for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
Faced with the reality of limited dollars to spread around, the Committee still managed to signal the importance of continued investments in kids. Programs receiving increases included child care, Head Start/Early Head Start, Part C Early Intervention, and Race to the Top (the source of funds for the Early Learning Challenge grants). Details of these increases are as follows:
- Discretionary funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) would increase by $160 million, for a total funding level of $2.438 billion. $90 million of the increase would be used to improve the quality of the early childhood care and education workforce through training, education, and other professional development opportunities. The other $70 million would be used to help families pay for care, underscoring the Committee’s recognition of the need for expanding access to care.
- Head Start/Early Head Start would receive a $70 million increase, bringing total funding to $8.039 billion. Most of these funds would be used to help with the implementation of the re-competition process. A portion would be used to help programs defray rising operational costs.
- Part C/Early Intervention received a $20 million increase, bringing the total funding to $463 million, an indication that the Committee considers it important to recognize the needs of young children with developmental delays and disabilities that this program addresses.
- Funding for Race to the Top was maintained at $550 million (losing a $50 million increase between Subcommittee and full Committee consideration of the bill). Unlike many other programs where funding is used to maintain existing programs from year to year, the funding allocated to Race to the Top each year is used for new multi-year grants. The Committee expects a significant portion of these funds to be used for another round of Early Learning Challenge grants, again signaling the need for enhancing the development of this at-risk population through high-quality early childhood settings.
- Promise Neighborhoods would receive a $20 million increase, to $80 million. These “place-based” initiatives support local efforts to create cradle-to-career services to improve educational outcomes for students in distressed neighborhoods.
- The Committee rejected proposed Administration cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant, which help children and families meet basic needs. Final decisions on FY 2013 funding levels are far down the road. The bill still has to be considered by the full Senate. The House Subcommittee that oversees this bill postponed its consideration of the bill that had been scheduled for June 20, and has not yet set a new date. The House has set more stringent overall limits on spending, so the Subcommittee’s task is harder. Final agreement on funding amounts most likely will have to wait until after the election this November. In the meantime, it is heartening that the Senate Appropriations Committee found the means to signal that investing in children is important even in times of fiscal austerity.
Remember that infant and toddler advocates can make a difference in the path our policymakers lay out. It is important to take every opportunity to let your policymakers know that young children need a strong foundation on which to develop, as these important programs can provide.
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