In April this year, President Obama proposed a new agenda for funding of Early Childhood initiatives that could transform systems that care for young children. I was pleased to see the administration is understanding the value of early childhood education as it impacts the future of our children in school, jobs and careers, and quality of life. It is encouraging to see a wide-sweeping approach to assist early childhood education. Below is a summary of what was proposed.
Obama’s proposed changes to ECE systems
High quality preschool for every child:
The President proposed a new federal-state partnership to provide all low- and middle-income four-year-old children with high quality preschool. The measure is to be funded by a $.94 increase in the federal tax on tobacco and expects to raise $78 billion over 10 years. The proposal also encourages states to expand to full-day kindergarten programs once preschool targets have been met.
Early Head Start/child care partnerships:
The President proposed expanding access to high quality early learning settings for children from birth-through-age-three, through a new competitive grant program run through Early Head Start in partnership with child care. The President has proposed $1.4 billion for FY2014.
Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG):
The President has proposed an increase of $500 million in “mandatory” funds for child care (from $2.9 billion this year to $3.4 billion in FY2014). The President has also proposed an increase of $200 million in CCDBG discretionary funds to increase health and safety.
Expanding home visiting:
The President has proposed an expansion of voluntary home visiting to enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that will improve a child’s health, development and ability to learn.
Further, in his State of the Union address, President Obama said the following: “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
If implemented these groundbreaking initiatives could launch a new wave of programs for our children. We also need to monitor the success of these programs with solid research and long-range studies so that we can validate the expenditure and make sure that we are designing and implementing programs that really make a difference in the lives of our children. I do hope this trend continues and we see quality early childhood programs become more available to our children and parents.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network