Last Monday President Obama released his budget priorities for the fiscal year that begins on October 1. His proposal focuses on reducing the federal deficit while also maintaining and even increasing certain investments in children.
States depend on federal funding to help provide core services, including early learning, child nutrition, and health care. According to the bipartisan advocacy organization First Focus, the President’s proposed budget invests an additional $1.4 billion in children overall (a 1.8% increase over this year’s spending). A useful chart illustrates that kids’ share of total discretionary spending would go up.
Despite challenging fiscal times, the President would continue to invest in early childhood education. Head Start and Early Head Start would see an increase of $85 million. These funds would maintain access for Washington families who enrolled their children thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Additionally, the Administration directs $300 million to a new initiative for improvements like rating systems that help parents identify high-quality child care. This aligns with Washington’s work on a Quality Rating and Improvement System as part of our successful Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge application.
In child nutrition, the President reverses cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, and supports an increase in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). He also requests more funds for three important meals programs for children: National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service.
The President’s budget is only a proposal. Congress will ultimately determine federal investments in our children. Be on the lookout for town hall meetings hosted by your Senators or Congressperson, send them email messages or, if you use Twitter, communicate with them through this handy tool. Whenever possible, let them know you think kids should be a priority in the federal budget!