fedsThere’s been a lot of talk in the last year about the importance of investing in early childhood education. We’ve heard from President Obama, business leaders, and governors from both red and blue states. In New York, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Cuomo are even jockeying to see who will implement a universal preschool plan first.

Last week, at the federal level, we saw more than just talk.

The federal 2014 Omnibus spending bill, which was signed into law by the President, received bipartisan support and includes an additional $1 billion in funding for early childhood education programs. This is a great start.

The funding restores sequestration cuts to Head Start by about $400 million and provides an additional $625 million, most of which will go to support Early Head Start. This is big news because last year, sequester cuts led to the elimination of Contra Costa County’s Early Head Start home visiting program, reduced preschool services for 600 children, and eliminated staff positions.

The bill also restores and increases funding to the Child Care Development Block Grant, the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families and for programs that improve child care quality.

Through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge program, the bill allocates an additional $250 million for states to develop and expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income children – the group least likely to have a quality preschool experience prior to kindergarten. These grants, like the one we’re implementing in Contra Costa County, will improve quality by raising standards and investing in the child care workforce.

Hopefully the momentum will continue with bipartisan support for Rep. George Miller’s Strong Start for America’s Children Act.

It’s exciting to see early childhood education finally get the attention it deserves, at least at the federal level. While governors throughout the country are making early childhood education investments a priority, that’s not happening in California. Governor Brown’s proposed budget fails to restore $1 billion in recent ECE cuts.

Let’s hope Governor Brown gets on board this year. Even if he doesn’t, 2014 is still shaping up to be the year for preschool.

 

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