In Alyssa Haywoode’s blog post on Monday for eye on early education, a blog of Strategies for Children, Inc., she tells readers that “the Senate Committee on Appropriations took a stand for the nation’s youngest children by approving a fiscal year 2014 spending bill for the Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services.” She reports that Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the appropriations committee chair, stated that the bill gives “our next generation the greatest chance at success” and provides “a combined increase of $2.56 billion for Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Preschool Development Grants.”
Haywoode shares details of the bill explained by Education Week that prove it is a “significant step towards meeting President Obama’s vision of a national expansion of early childhood programs.” The $2.56 billion dollars would serve to:
— Expand Early Head Start and the new Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships that serve children and families from before birth to age three
— Improve the quality of early education and care workforce and strengthen health and safety standards
— Fund a national toll free referral line and website for child care resource and school-aged child care activities
— Help states expand or create high-quality preschool systems for four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families
Haywoode shares with her readers a statement issued by the First Five Years Fund:
“We are especially pleased to see the nation’s lawmakers making fiscal policy decisions that reflect all of the knowledge we have about human development. Ninety percent of physical brain growth happens in the first five years of life, with the early cognitive and character skills gained during those years providing the foundation for later success in school, career and life.”
Despite the truth we know about brain development in children birth to five, Haywoode turns right around, as she must, and paints the reality of what needs to happen next. To start, she quotes the New America Foundation’s Early Ed Watch blog, which includes a detailed budget comparison table for early education and K-12 line items, and lets us know that “now the question is what will happen to the Senate appropriations bill” since “funding for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2013, is set to decline even further from the final 2013 levels after the sequester made across-the-board spending cuts.” The numbers coming from the House, which hasn’t yet passed a bill, for allocations to the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Labor are significantly lower than the Senate level.
Haywoode leaves us with a plea for significant federal investment in high-quality early childhood care and education since, as the Senate committee statement says, it “has been proven to have positive, lasting effects for children and families” and “supports the nation’s long-term economic security by preparing our next generation of workers, entrepreneurs and business leaders for future success.” Haywoode promises that eye on early education and Strategies for Children, Inc. will “continue to monitor the federal budget progress and keep readers posted.” For now, this is the best she and the rest of us can do…keep each other informed about the crucial brain development that occurs from birth to five (and, really, before the age of three in my experience and research) and why it’s so important to push for and monitor federal budget allocations when it comes to our earliest learners.