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.

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.

Federal Education Plans Include Building “Promise Neighborhoods”

In his budget outline, President Obama has included plans to create “Promise Neighborhoods” in up to 20 cities across the nation. These innovative programs will be modeled after the highly successful “Harlem Children’s Zone” in New York. The Harlem Children’s Zone program takes a holistic approach to improving children’s lives and combating poverty through education, social services, and community building efforts. The program offers prenatal care, parenting classes for pregnant mothers, high-quality education from pre-k through grade 12, and other social services (health screenings, afterschool programs, etc.). President Obama’s plans have been estimated to cost “a few billion dollars” and communities wishing to become one of the “Promise Neighborhoods” will compete for start-up grants beginning in 2010. Read more about this topic here or here.

The president, CEO, and founder of Harlem Children’s Zone, Geoffrey Canada, spent years combatting poverty in urban areas and saw little success even with the introduction of expensive social programs. Then when his wife became pregnant, something clicked, and he began offering services early to children (starting even before they were born). He now educates others about these critical early years and offers many services that improve the early experiences of children living in poverty. See an interview with him here.