WECA’s Ruth Schmidt in Cap Times: “Raise WI Shares payments”

The Capital Times ran a letter to the editor this weekend from WECA Executive Director, Ruth Schmidt, in response to the “Give all 4-year-olds a chance” Op-Ed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In the letter, Schmidt also responded to State Senator Julie Lassa’s recent statement on Wisconsin Shares payments, “The problem we see, and that she [Sen. Lassa] echoes, is that child care providers receiving Shares payments are being financially penalized as they work to grow their program’s quality rating through Youngstar. We believe raising the Shares rate by 7 percent is a smart move with long-term benefits.”

Click here to read the full letter.

What do you think? Is raising the Wisconsin Shares rate by 7% a good move for child care? Leave us your comments below…

Cap Times Article by Arne Duncan: Give all 4-year-olds a chance

Recently, The Cap Times published an article by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, on the need to give all young children an equal chance to begin kindergarten ready to learn.

Secretary Duncan writes that, “President Barack Obama put forward a plan last week to make access to high-quality early learning a reality for every 4-year-old in America by making full-day preschool available to families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.”

Duncan notes that parents and education professionals across the country agree that more needs to be done to ensure that children from disadvantaged families begin kindergarten just as ready as children from better-off families.

But members of Congress have asked Secretary Duncan questions, doubting the impact of early childhood education. “How do we know early learning works?” Congress members ask, and “What about its lasting impact?”

The Secretary uses the article to share research on the impact of quality child care in states ranging from Oklahoma to Georgia and New Jersey.

He also writes about the need to invest in early learning to compete globally. “The countries we compete with economically are well ahead of us in preschool opportunity. We rank 28th in the proportion of 4-year-olds enrolled in early learning in surveys by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and 25th in public funding for early learning.”

Click here to read the full article.

Share your opinion: What do you think needs to be done to make sure all children receive quality early learning opportunities? Comment below…

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.

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.

OR

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!

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.

Early Learning Challenge Fund to be Discussed

U.S. Representative George Miller (D-CA) recently introduced the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R.3221) into the House of Representatives. 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. In support of President Obama’s plan to invest $10 billion over 10 years to improve early education, 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.

If you support this investment in early education, you can contact your representative TODAY to tell him or her that you support the Early Learning Challenge Fund. You can find out how to contact your US House Representative by clicking here and entering your mailing address. A sample message to your representative is: “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.”

Tomorrow, July 21st, at 11:00 am EST, the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor will be discussing H.R.3221 in a mark-up session. You can view this session live by visiting here and clicking on the “Live webcast” link. The session will be recorded and posted to the committee’s website later this week. If passed by the committee, the bill will hopefully move to the floor next week to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. At this time, the bill has not been brought up in the Senate. A Senate companion bill is expected to be created in the fall.

Federal Early Education Bills to Watch

Since our earlier blog entry on federal early education bills, many more have been introduced into the United States Congress. Here are 5 more Federal bills to watch:

1. S.839/H.R.2184– The Prepare All Kids Act of 2009. This bill-which was introduced in both houses-would provide grants to states to help them create/expand/enhance voluntary, universal preschool programs that are high-quality and available to children between the ages of 3 and 5.

2. H.R.2041– The Child Care Public-Private Partnership Act of 2009. This bill would provide competitive grants to businesses and nonprofit agencies to create child care services for employees through a public-private partnership.

3. S.1000-The Starting Early Starting Right Act. This bill would modify the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) so that a larger percentage of the funding each state receives must be used to enhance early education quality and to extend the amount of time services are provided.

4. S.1002/H.R.1685– The Child Care Facilities Financing Act of 2009. This bill would create competitive grants for early education programs and providers to improve, build, or purchase/rent child care facilities. These improvements will result in higher quality care for young children.

5. S.7– The Education Opportunity Act of 2009. This bill urges the Senate and House- along with President Obama- to pass legislation that will increase access to high-quality early education and expand early education opportunities (child care, after-school care, etc.).

What’s in the 2010 Federal Budget?

Last week, President Obama and his administration released their proposal for the fiscal year 2010 (October 1, 2009- September 30, 2010) federal budget. Investments in early education, which have long been part of President Obama’s vision for reforming education (see previous blog entry), were prominent in the proposal. Although the proposal includes a decrease in funding for one program- Title 1 Grants to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs)- and the elimination of the Even Start program, five new federal early education programs were included. These new programs include: Title 1 Early Childhood Grants, Early Learning Challenge Fund, Early Literacy Grants, Promise Neighborhoods (read more here), and Home Visitation.

Some specific proposed program funding amounts for 2010 are:
Title 1 (Grants to LEAs): $12,992,400,000 nationally, $190,572,741 for Wisconsin. This is a $1.5 trillion decrease from the 2009 funding level.
Title 1 (Early Childhood Grants): $500,000,000 nationally, $7,264,093 for Wisconsin. This is a new program and therefore a $500 million increase from the 2009 funding level.
CCDBG: $2,127,000,000 nationally. Flat funding from 2009.
Head Start: $6,514,000,000 nationally. This is a $111 million increase from the 2009 funding level.
Early Head Start: $721,000,000 nationally. This is an $11 million increase from the 2009 funding level.
Early Learning Challenge Program: $300,000,000 nationally. This is a new program and therefore a $300 million increase from the 2009 funding level.
Promise Neighborhoods: $10 million nationally. This is a new program and therefore a $10 million increase from the 2009 funding level.
Special Education Grants (Preschool): $374,100,000 nationally, $9,322,199 for Wisconsin. Flat funding from 2009.
Early Reading First: $162,500,000 nationally. This is a $50 million increase from the 2009 funding level.
Early Literacy Grants: $300,000,000 nationally. This is a new program and therefore a $300 million increase from the 2009 funding level.

**Although the proposed funding for these programs may not appear to make a significant increase in early education investments, it is important to remember that stimulus dollars will continue to add funding in these areas during 2010.