Today is the Day to Call-in for Kids!

Watch the video above and follow the instructions in our previous blog post to call your legislators! Help us ensure that federal funding for early education does not get cut.

Call-in for kids: November 15, 2010

Congress is back in Washington on Monday, November 15 and has limited time to do some important work: ensure that funding is not cut for child care and Head Start before the end of the year.

Without sufficient funding, as many as to 300,000 children could be dropped from child care and Head Start. Your support could ensure that these children continue to receive care. Also, encourage Congress to create the Early Learning Challenge Fund to encourage states to do even better for young children and families.

Congress is considering appropriations bills that could go backwards in spending for child care and Head Start, and would lose the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Help us tell Congress to move forward and adequately fund the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start, and the Early Learning Challenge Fund.

What can you do?
Call Congress on Monday, November 15!
• Call 1-888-460-0813
• The first person to answer the phone will be an operator who will ask how you want to be connected. Tell the operator the name of your Member of Congress. (Not sure? Look it up here or use http://action.nwlc.org/find_your_elected_officials)
• Once you are connected to the office of your Member of Congress, a staff person will answer the phone. Tell the staff person:
• My name is (name) and I am calling from (city, state). I am a constituent and a (your role: parent, family child care provider, early education advocate, etc.).
• Please make sure that continued funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start is NOT REDUCED in the appropriations bill and that the Early Learning Challenge Fund is included. Funding cuts could drop as many as 300,000 children from child care and Head Start, and the Early Learning Challenge Fund can help states improve the quality of care offered.
• We are counting on you here in Wisconsin. Thank you.

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.

Early Learning Challenge Fund: Contact Your Senator

In September, the US House of Representatives passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221). This bill restructures student loan procedures, uses the savings to invest in other areas of education, and includes substantial investments in early childhood education through the Early Learning Challenge Fund. The fund will offer competitive grants to states to enhance the quality of early learning for children ages birth to five. You can read more about the fund and its purposes here. At present, the Senate is considering this legislation and needs to hear why the Early Learning Challenge Fund is important to early care and education across the nation.

YOU can take action:

Please call your US Senate representatives TODAY to tell them that you support the Early Learning Challenge Fund within the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. You can find out how to contact Senators Feingold and Kohl by clicking here and entering your mailing address.

Sample message to your Senators:

My name is ___ and I am one of your constituents. I fully support the Early Learning Challenge Fund provision within H.R.3221. This fund is a critical investment that will improve the quality of early education. Please support legislation that includes this fund.

3 Early Ed Bills Advance

Early Learning Challenge Fund
Last Thursday, September 17, the US House of Representatives passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221) with a vote of 251 to 171. This bill restructures student loan procedures, uses the savings to invest in other areas of education, and includes substantial investments in early childhood education through the Early Learning Challenge Fund. The fund will offer competitive grants to states to enhance the quality of early learning for children ages birth to five. Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius have posted a response to the passage of the bill. You can read it here. A version of this bill is expected to be considered by the Senate soon.

Changes in Five-Year-Old Kindergarten Requirements
On Wednesday, September 16, the Wisconsin Assembly passed AB119- a bill that would change current mandates regarding enrollment in, and completion of, 5-year-old Kindergarten. Beginning in 2011-2012, completion of 5-year-old Kindergarten would be a prerequisite for entering first grade in any public or charter school. School districts would be allowed to make their own rules for parents and guardians to receive an exemption from this mandate. Along with enrollment and completion requirements, the bill would also call for regular attendance by 5-year-old Kindergarten students throughout the school year. On September 22, the bill was concurred in by the Senate with a vote of 17-15.

Changes in Child Care Fraud Liability
On Thursday, September 17, the Wisconsin committee on Children and Families and Workforce Development in the Senate unanimously passed SB280 out of their committee and on to the full Senate. In the bill, if a child care provider commits fraud within the Wisconsin Shares subsidy program, is part of a corporation or limited liability company, and is unable to pay back what they owe, then any person who holds 20 percent or more of ownership interest in the child care facility and who has control of/responsibility for the business may be personally liable. The Assembly Committee on Children and Families will hold a public hearing on the bill (AB412) on September 30, 2009 at 11:00 AM in Capitol room 400 Northeast.

TRY IT Tuesday: Contact your Federal Legislator about the Early Learning Challenge Fund

This week, the US House of Representatives is expected to discuss and vote on the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R.3221). This bill restructures student loan procedures and uses the savings to invest in other areas of education. This legislation includes substantial investments in early childhood education through an Early Learning Challenge Fund. The fund will offer competitive grants to states to enhance the quality of early learning for children ages birth to five. You can read more about the fund and its purposes here.

Are you ready to TRY IT? If you support this investment in early education, contact your representative TODAY to tell him or her that you support the Early Learning Challenge Fund. A sample message to your representative might include: “My name is ___ and I am one of your constituents. I fully support the Early Learning Challenge Fund provision within H.R.3221. This fund is a critical investment that will improve the quality of early education. Please support H.R.3221.” To find your legislator’s phone number- as well as some additional talking points from Zero to Three- click here and enter your zip code.

Did you TRY IT? Let us know what you said, how it went, why you decided to contact your legislator, etc.

Early Learning Challenge Fund Passed by House Committee

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R.3221), which contains a provision for the Early Learning Challenge Fund (beginning on pg. 125 of the bill), was passed yesterday by the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. As part of President Obama’s earlier plan to invest $10 billion over 10 years to improve early education, the fund will offer $1 billion in competitive grants each year for 8 years to states to enhance the quality of early learning for children ages birth to five. You can read more about the fund and its purposes here. The only Wisconsin Congressperson on the Committee, Representative Thomas Petri, voted in favor of the bill.

The bill will hopefully move to the floor next week to be voted on by the full House of Representatives before their recess in August. If you support this investment in early education, contact your representative TODAY to tell him or her that you support the Early Learning Challenge Fund. See our previous blog entry for more information on taking action. Although the bill has not been brought up in the Senate, a companion bill is expected to be created and introduced in the fall.