The continuing resolution that Congress passed last December kept early learning programs working until March 4. Now, a House of Representative proposal puts kids at risk.
Early Head Start and Head Start programs — designed to close the opportunity gap between poor and middle-income children — provide quality early childhood education for more than 17,000 Washington families. And the federal Child Care Development Block Grant provides access to quality, affordable child care for more than 48,000 children each month.
These programs – proven to build cognitive and character skills that drive success in school, college, career and life – are on the chopping block. Last week, the House of Representatives released plans to make nearly $1.1 billion in cuts to Head Start and a $39 billion cut to child care.
Oak Harbor resident Kylee Allen (pictured) saw her daughter graduate recently from the Skagit/Islands Head Start program. “My daughter started with Early Head Start and moved to Head Start with a major speech delay,” she says. “By the time she finished Head Start, her self-confidence and her speaking abilities were 100 percent improved. She was prepared to start kindergarten"
If passed, the proposed cut to Head Start would mean that 2,772 low-income children in Washington would be pulled out of the program and pulled back from the opportunities these programs provide.
Additionally, the House-proposed cuts would eliminate 908 positions for teachers and classroom staff across the state, compounding the effects of the recession.
The House is scheduled to vote this week. We are asking our legislators to reject these cuts and preserve investments that hold the door open to quality, affordable child care and high-quality pre-k programs.
House plans contrast with President Obama’s budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year released earlier this week. His proposal recognizes the importance of some programs, such as child care and early education, that will help get us on the path to economic security. His proposed funding levels for early learning programs would ensure that as federal stimulus dollars go away, the more than 1,000 Washington children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start can continue to receive services, and that our state maintains its commitment to child care assistance for more than 30,000 working parents every month.
Obama’s proposal also includes $350 million to create an Early Learning Challenge Fund, a competitive grant program aimed at increasing quality early learning systems in states.
While these ideas are a bright spot in a climate of devastating cuts, early learning advocates worry that if the House proposal passes, it will decrease the chance that the House and Senate will then adopt the President’s suggestions for 2012.
Since members of Congress have invested in early learning in the past, they know what we know: Investing in programs increases opportunities for children to grow up healthy, strong, and ready to learn. The return on this investment is lower high school dropout and incarceration rates, less remedial education and a pathway for low-income kids to climb out of poverty and into higher education. Washington’s future prosperity relies on these children.
We urge Congress to act now to reject the current 2011 budget proposal, and avoid forcing kids in our state from taking a step back. You can also share your Head Start story by going to www.supportheadstart.org.