Introducing the inaugural edition of Early Childhood News from the Children’s Defense Fund. Monthly, we will send information and resources about policies, research and legislation as it impacts young children and families across the country.
Tough Times for Children in Washington
There is good news and bad news on the early childhood front in Washington.
The good news is that the President’s FY 2012 proposed budget released on February 14 makes important investments in critical early childhood programs and initiatives. The $1.3 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), $866 million increase for Head Start and Early Head Start and $350 million for the proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund signals the administration’s ongoing commitment to prepare children for success in school and put them on the right track to graduate and go on to college. These critical dollars would maintain ARRA expansion and help strengthen the quality of child care as CCDBG is due to be reauthorized this year.
The bad news is that on the same day, the House Appropriations Committee released a FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) to replace the temporary CR that is scheduled to end on March 4 that includes $100 billion in cuts in federal programs. If enacted, it could cut Head Start by $1.083 billion (from FY 2010) and CCDBG by $39 million. The Administration estimates that these cuts would result in 218,000 children losing Head Start and 150,000 children losing child care. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers would also be cut—by $100 million—and the Even Start program would be eliminated. Across the board, vulnerable populations are at risk of losing critical dollars for needed programs that are impacting families and young children are no exception.
For more information on this year’s budget activities, see CDF's Budget Watch
The research is clear, quality early childhood programs are the most cost-effective way to prepare children for success in school and in life. High quality early care and education programs like Head Start produce measurable, short and long-term results; they help narrow the achievement gap, reduce the need for special education and remediation, and cut juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy and dropout rates. Child care subsidies make quality care more affordable, support the healthy development of children, and help low-income parents access the child care they need to go to work or school. At present, these programs already lack sufficient resources to meet the current need. The National Head Start Association reports that only four percent of eligible infants and toddlers are able to receive services through Early Head Start and 40 percent of Head Start eligible children are able to participate because of current funding levels. Only one in six children who is eligible for federally assisted child care is receiving it.
Investments in Head Start and child care also make sound economic sense. James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate economist, contends that investments in low income children during the early years offer the biggest payoff in the future. His solution for reducing budget deficits and strengthening the economy is putting dollars in quality early childhood programs. He has found that investments in these types of programs can generate up to 10 percent annual returns. In addition, by employing hundreds of thousands of teachers, assistants, administrators and the like these programs often act as economic drivers in communities by providing jobs and revenue. Research from the Center for Law and Social Policy maintains that the multiplier effect of the child care sector is as strong or stronger when compared to other sectors including retail, tourism, hospitals, job training, and elementary schools. Even during tough budget times, early childhood care and education is one of the most cost-effective public investments available.
Many of you have participated in advocacy activities such as calling the White House and member of congress s as well as signing-on to letters in support of Head Start and child care. We will continue to ask for your help during this tough budget year as well, please contact CDF’s early childhood policy department if you have questions or suggestions as to how we can be of help to you.
Early Childhood in the States
New Resource: Children in the States Factsheets
New state factsheets about children on a clickable map provide the most up-to-date statistics and reliable rankings regarding poverty, health, hunger, child welfare, early childhood development, education, and youth at risk. Find out how children in your state fare.
Votes Count Report
Pre-K Now has released its annual Votes Count report. Each year the organization reviews upcoming funding and legislative action on publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Over the last decade, efforts to expand state pre-k have gained momentum throughout the country. Forty states now pay for some form of pre-k with initiatives ranging from small pilot projects in Rhode Island to Oklahoma’s universal, voluntary program funded through the state’s K-12 education formula. The report contends that although states are facing pervasive economic hardships, there has been bi-partisan support by most state legislators in favor of investments in high-quality pre-kindergarten in FY 2011. They’ve found that total nationwide funding for pre-k has increased slightly, from $5.3 billion in FY 2010 to $5.4 billion this year. Key findings include: 15 states and the District of Columbia increased their pre-k investments, four other states included pre-k in their school funding formulas, 11 states flat funded their pre-k programs, 10 states decreased their pre-k funding, and 10 states do not have state pre-k programs. The report also demonstrates how investments at the national level helps shore up needed early childhood programs in the states. Pre-K Now maintains that State lawmakers continue to send a clear message that pre-kindergarten is a valued education reform strategy and a smart policy, even in a tough economy. Read the entire report here.
Maine—Early Childhood as an Economic Investment
Maine Children’s Alliance recently released an issue brief Early Childhood as an Economic Investment. The brief discusses opportunities for Maine to develop and build on early childhood public-private partnerships. Policymakers have often only considered early education initiatives as a school readiness strategy or as a way to close the achievement gap. What research and economic experts suggests is that mounting evidence shows that investments in early education may be considered as an economic development strategy. The brief highlights:
- Ways that Maine’s early childhood community can facilitate public private partnerships that could take the onus off of federal and state funds alone to build robust early childhood systems that support school readiness as well as economically invest in states.
- Several examples of states and programs that have used the public-private model to partner around an early childhood initiative.
- The Educare model in Central Maine as an example of a quality early childhood program that “braids” and blends national and local private resources with established public ones.
- The use of lessons learned from key states, Arizona, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia as a tool for developing Maine’s strategy. Read the full issue brief here.
Early Childhood Resources and News
The Case for Investing in PreK-3rd Education: Challenging Myths about School Reform
This policy brief overturns three widely held assumptions about school reform. Foremost among these is the belief, despite powerful evidence to the contrary, elementary schools are doing just fine, and learning problems begin later.
Building a Comprehensive System for Babies
A new resource from CLASP is available to guide states in building a comprehensive and coordinated infant/toddler system.
ESEA: The Opportunity to Strengthen Early Ed
Closing The Achievement Gap With Baby Talk
Economist’s Plan to Improve Schools Begins Before Kindergarten
Where the Achievement Gap is Born: A Letter to Cathie Black
Dr. Cathy Grace
Director, Early Childhood Development