Children’s Champions Update
May 16, 2014
U.S. Senate Committee Passes Strong Start Legislation
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a mark-up of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act this week. Both sides of the aisle expressed support and a greater need for high-quality early childhood education; however the Strong Start legislation passed out of the Committee along party lines.
NAEYC is pleased that a change was made and passed in the new version of Strong Start that would help support a mixed setting delivery system for the Strong Start funds. The original bill and this version require states to set a quality requirement that the teacher in the prek classroom has a BA degree in early childhood education or a BA degree in another related field and can demonstrate competency in early childhood education. The version passing out of the Committee Wednesday would allow programs with a teacher enrolled in a BA program and making progress to earn it to be eligible for three years for the grant. Any newly hired teachers after the date of enactment would need to have met the BA requirement.
Senator Alexander joined by Senators Enzi and Isakson offered a substitute for the bill that would allow states to consolidate core federal early childhood programs and would allow states wide discretion for setting standards and for how they would use the funds. The amendment did not increase the federal dollars. Funds would be used for children six years old and younger, in families with incomes under 130% of the federal poverty line or with disabilities. The amendment failed on party lines.
It’s Federal Funding Decision Time
We are entering the next phase of the federal funding process: appropriations bills. A markup of the spending bill could occur in the Senate in early or mid-June. Please urge your Senators and Representatives to support additional investments in child care, Head Start, early intervention, and other early care and education programs by clicking the link here. Describe for them how important these funds have been to helping families afford programs for their children and for programs and schools to meet and sustain high-quality standards. Remind them that business, military and law enforcement officials are calling for more investments in high-quality early childhood education as a way to save taxpayers from more expensive special education placements, juvenile detention, and school dropout.
Background: The President presented Congress with his budget request (see Children’s Champions from March by clicking here), and now Congress can adopt, adapt, or disregard the President’s request. The amount of dollars for total federal spending were set in the budget deal and this is the second, final year of the deal. While the difference between for FY 2014 at $1.012 trillion and for FY 2015 at $1.014 trillion may seem like a lot, the $2 billion increase for next year over current funding is well below the amount needed to account for inflation and the demands for more funding for programs, many of which did not get fully restored from their sequestration levels. The allocation for the subcommittee that handles early childhood and education as well as many other health, human services, and labor programs, is only $1 billion more than last year. We still need actively to push for increased investments in child care, Head Start, and other early childhood education programs.