Early Education Fares Well in the 2011 Federal Budget

The original House version of the Federal 2011 budget would have cut $1 billion, or 15%, of the national Head Start budget, and would have cut the child care budget by $39 million. Fortunately, early care and education got a significant victory in the final compromise package worked out by the House, Senate and President Obama.

In this final budget version, Head Start got an increase of $340 million more than the 2010 budget, enough to maintain the children currently enrolled, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant got a $100 million increase! For Wisconsin, The 2011 budget package will provide an estimated $4.3 million for Head Start, and $1.3 million for child care– more than the 2010 budget level.

In tough financial times, it is crucial to invest in programs that bring back positive social and economic returns to society, saving money in the long-term. Investments in early education programs will do just that (see a recent analysis by Child Trends, an independent, nonpartisan research center) and we are happy that the federal governments has recognized this during the current budget process. We are hopeful that investments in early education programs will continue, despite difficult decisions that will need to be made for future federal budgets.

Additional Budget Hearings to be Hosted by Democratic Legislators

In addition to the official public budget hearings scheduled by (and attended by) the full Joint Finance Committee, Democratic members have announced that they will host the following budget hearings:

Saturday, April 9, Oshkosh: UW-Oshkosh, Reeve Memorial Union, Room 202. 748 Algoma Blvd (10:30-4:30pm)
Saturday, April 9, Eau Claire: Chippewa Valley Technical College, Business Education Center, Room E1018. 620 Clairemont Avenue (10-4pm)
Friday, April 15, Baraboo: UW-Baraboo Gymnasium, 1006 Connie Road. (1-7pm)
Monday, April 18, Wausau: Northcentral Technical College, Heath Sciences Building, Room 1004. 1000 W. Campus Drive (1-7pm)
Wednesday, April 20, Janesville: Blackhawk Technical College North Commons. 6004 S Cty Road G (1-6pm)
Monday, April 25. La Crosse: UW-La Crosse Cartwright Center, Room 339. 1725 State Street (1-7pm)

Democratic legislators will also host public budget hearings at the following locations:

Monday, April 11, Racine: Gateway Technical College, RACI Great Lakes 116. 1001 S. Main Street (5-10pm)
Saturday, April 16, Green Bay: Brown County Central Library, Lower Level Theatre. 515 Pine Street (10-4pm)
Saturday, April 16, Rhinelander: Nicolet Technical College Learning Resources Building Auditorium. 5364 College Drive (10- 1pm)
Monday, April 25, Appleton: Appleton Public Library, Meeting Room A/B/C. 225 N. Oneida Street (1-7pm)
Monday, May 9, Kenosha: Gateway Technical College Auditorium. 3520 30th Avenue (10-3pm).

Budget Hearings to Begin!

Governor Walker has proposed his state budget and it is now being reviewed by the Joint Finance Committee. In order to make sure that all of Wisconsin’s young children have access to high-quality early learning experiences, we need YOU to help us send a message to the Joint Finance members letting them know how important high-quality early childhood education is.

The committee will be holding public hearings in 4 areas across the state. If you live in or near one of these sites, please consider attending the hearing and signing in support for adequate early education funding, giving a 2 minute (or less) testimonial/speech, or dropping off written comments for the committee. If you can’t stop by a hearing, but would still like to voice your opinion, you can send written comments via email to BudgetComments@legis.wisconsin.gov or via mail to: Joe Malkasian, Room 305 East, State Capitol, Madison, WI 53702.. If you’re planning to speak or provide written comments, we can send you some information to include and some general information about the hearings themselves.

Below are the hearing dates and locations. All are scheduled from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, except for the hearing in Superior, with speakers giving testimony in the order that they sign-up at the hearing:

• Thursday, April 7: Stevens Point. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Quandt Fieldhouse, 2050 Fourth Street.
CANCELED: Friday, April 8: Minong. Northwood School, Richard’s Auditorium, N14463 Highway 63.
NEW: Friday, April 8, 9am-4pm: Superior. University of Wisconsin-Superior, Wessman Arena, 2701 Catlin Avenue
• Monday, April 11: West Allis. Wisconsin State Fair Park, Expo Center Hall A, 8200 W. Greenfield Avenue.
CANCELED: Wednesday April 13: Arcadia. Arcadia High School Auditorium, 756 Raider Drive.
NEW: Wednesday April 13: Neenah. Pickard Civic Auditorium, 1275 Tullar Road.

This Mother’s Day, Mom Says “Invest in Young Children!”

Every day, mothers invest their time, attention, and love in young children. This year on Mother’s Day, in recognition of this investment, contact Congress and ask them to make a similar investment to promote the well-being of young children across the nation!

Earlier this year, President Obama released his budget request for fiscal year 2011. In it, he proposed significant funding increases (a $6.12 billion increase over last year!) for programs that impact children including important increases in funding for child care, Head Start, and child nutrition programs. These programs serve our most disadvantaged children, enable parents to get and keep a job, and promote good nutrition early in life. Click here to read more about the President’s request for funding.

In honor of mothers who go the extra mile for children, take a moment to send an email to your Congress representatives today and urge them to fully fund the President’s request for 2011. Ask them to provide:

• a $1.6 billion increase for the Child Care & Development Block Grant,
• a $989 million increase for Head Start and Early Head Start, and
• a $1 billion increase for child nutrition programs.

Click here to email your representatives in Congress today. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Early Education Could Get a Federal Boost

Earlier this year, President Obama released his budget request for next year (fiscal year 2011). The President called for a ‘freeze’ of total federal discretionary spending over the next three years. Despite this freeze, he has proposed significant increases in discretionary spending on programs that impact children (a $6.12 billion increase over last year)! With this increase, the percentage of total federal discretionary money that will be spent on children’s programs would increase from 18.97% this year to 20.34% next year. Additionally, the President has proposed nearly doubling the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to help more middle class families with the rising cost of child care. Here are some of the programs that the President has requested increased spending in:

The Child Care and Development Block Grant: Total requested increase of $1.6 billion. $800 million of this is proposed to provide additional child care subsidies to working families. The other $800 million is proposed to go towards quality improvements.

Head Start/Early Head Start : Total requested increase of $989 million.

Early Learning Challenge Fund: If passed, this piece of legislation would provide nearly $9 billion over 10 years. Visit our earlier blog post for more information on this effort.

Literacy efforts: The budget request of $250 million for a comprehensive birth through high school literacy grant program which would replaced other efforts like Early Reading First and Reading First. 15% of this total would be reserved for birth to kindergarten efforts.

Child Nutrition efforts: Total requested increase of $1 billion.

Promise Neighborhoods: Total requested increase of $210 million. This effort is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, and encourages comprehensive programs for children and their families from before they are born to college age. Read our earlier blog post about this effort here.

March Forth Today for Children

March Forth!Today, on March 4th, please join thousands of advocates to “March Forth” in support of increased funding for child care, Head Start and child nutrition. This year’s action theme — “Families Earning, Children Learning” — reminds Congress of the importance of these programs for children, parents and our economic recovery.

Ready to join the action?

1. Call your Members of Congress TODAY, use the script below, and dial toll-free at 1.888.460.0813. The operator who answers the phone will ask which Senator or Representative you would like to speak to.

When you’re connected with their offices, tell the staffers who answer the phone:

* Hi, my name is __________. I’m a constituent. (and also a parent, child care provider, community leader, etc.)
* I am calling because I believe child care, Head Start and child nutrition are essential programs for children and families. I urge the Senator/Representative to support the increases for these programs proposed in the President’s budget.

Remember to call back until you’ve spoken to the offices of your Representative and both of your Senators.


2. Email your representatives by following the National Women’s Law Center link here.

Why should YOU join in?
Your members of Congress have started to work on the federal budget, which determines a large chunk of funding for child care and early education programs, along with other programs that matter for women and families. By calling today, we can make sure that Congress knows that the increased investments proposed in the President’s budget are necessary.

The more calls and e-mails they get, the more pressure Congress will feel to support these vital programs. So please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues.

Thanks for Marching Forth with us!

States Cut Early Education Program Funding- Families Feel the Pinch

Two weeks ago, USA Today featured an article discussing the negative impact that early education budget cuts are having on families and children across the nation. In it the author Marisol Bello states, “as budget problems worsen, states are tightening rules for subsidies, eliminating enriched child care programs, raising fees that parents and providers pay, and halting new subsidies.” These program cuts directly impact families, many of whom were already struggling with paying the high cost of child care. Nine states have waiting lists for child care subsidies that continue to grow and Arizona is considering increasing their day care licensing fees by as much as 8,800% (read more on this here)- a fee that likely will be passed on to parents.

In Wisconsin, some areas of early education funding have seen decreases while others have seen cuts. The Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program continued to have strong support from the state legislature and it received an increase in funding over the previous biennium. Additionally, the program has no waiting list for families eligible for subsidy, even as the demand continues to rise. On the other hand, Wisconsin has reduced its overall funding for programs that improve child care quality. As a result, many low-income children can access care through the Wisconsin Shares program, but it may be of low-quality. These same children are those who could benefit most from high-quality services. In these tough economic times, it is important that early education program funding for low-income children and families address improvements in both access and quality.

Budget Passes Assembly, Signed by Governor Doyle

The Conference Committee version of the Wisconsin state budget passed through the Assembly on Friday evening with a vote of 51-46. This version of the budget, along with a comparison with the original Senate and Assembly versions, can be viewed here. This joint version allocates $1,500,000 in 2010-2011 for 4-year-old Kindergarten start-up grants (in addition to the $3,000,000 that is allocated in 2009-2010). It also limits the total number of hours a child can receive child care under Wisconsin Shares to 12 hours per day. Some exceptions can be made- with proper documentation- to extend this limit up to 16 hours per day.

Governor Doyle received the current version of the budget and signed it into law today at 11:00am. He also issued a public statement discussing his veto choices that have been added to the budget. You can read that document here. Included in his vetoes are changes to how hours are authorized within the Wisconsin Shares child-care subsidy program and the circumstances under which the Child Care Program Integrity Unit can investigate a child care provider’s use of Shares funding. These changes are discussed in detail on pages 13 and 14 of the Governor’s veto message. To overturn any one of Doyle’s vetoes, the Legislature needs two-thirds of its members to oppose it.

Conference Committee Budget Passes Through Senate

Late last night, the Conference Committee presented a revised budget to the Senate. This joint version allocates $1,500,000 in 2010-2011 for 4-year-old Kindergarten start-up grants. This is a change from both the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget. The joint version also limits the total number of hours a child can receive child care under Wisconsin Shares to 12 hours per day. Some exceptions can be made- with proper documentation- to extend this limit up to 16 hours per day. This section remained from the Senate version of the budget.

Because no amendments are allowed at this stage in the process, the new budget passed quickly throught the Senate with a vote of 17-15. The Assembly is expected to vote on the conference committee version of the budget tonight around 8:30pm. The newest version of the budget, along with a comparison with the original Senate and Assembly versions, can be viewed here.

If the budget passes through the Assembly, it will be sent to Governor Doyle. He can then use his partial veto power to change any section he would like. To overturn any change made, the Legislature needs two-thirds of its members to vote against it.

Conference Committee Meets to Discuss State Budget

A six-member team of legislators have formed a conference committee to iron out differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the Wisconsin state budget. Representing the Senate: Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston; Mark Miller, D-Monona; and Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. Representing the Assembly: Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville; Mary Hubler, D-Rice Lake, and Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.

The committee is expected to meet today to deliberate and come to an agreement. The legislature hopes to pass a budget that can be signed into law by the Governor by July 1, 2009.