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A Look at How Obama's Budget Proposal Could Affect Children

13 Feb 2015 by Rebecca Berlin

One cold evening, as January passed into February, I sat down to review over 20 different sources that summarized President Obama’s budget and the probability for the multitude of initiatives to be funded in the budget’s final version. What follows is a consolidated overview of the points I think will be most relevant for our readers. Remember, these are just budget proposals that have been outlined and are not guaranteed until the final budget has been passed. I have ordered the items based on my belief (and only my belief) of their probability for being included in the final budget.

  • $750 million for Preschool Development Grants (an increase of $500 million) to help states lay the foundation for universal public preschool. This means that additional states that submitted applications for the 2014 competition would be funded, and my belief is that DOE and HHS would “fund down the list” based upon 2014 scores and not hold a new competition. This is a fairly political neutral initiative, which has seen significant funding go to Republican and Democratic states; therefore, I think it should make the final cut.
  • $650 million for Head Start and Early Head Start to expand access to Early Head Start through additional Partnership grant opportunities and to increase the Head Start school day to full school day and full school year (6 hours and 170 days). For the additional Partnership grants, I believe OHS would open an additional competition to encourage more partners who stayed on the sideline in the first competition to enter. We have seen additional funding go to Head Start in past years and this trend may continue.
  • $100 million to create an innovation fund focused on pilot models for care during the hours working families need them most. This is an interesting, much needed addition, as after hours, nighttime, and weekend care is a significant missing link in our child care network. The dollar amount on this might be low enough to get this included particularly if it is backed by a strong Senate advocate who has this as a local state issue (think manufacturing states).
  • $82 billion for CCDBG funding over 10 years to ensure that all low- and moderate-income families with children aged three or younger have access to quality, affordable care. This includes a $3.66 billion increase for 2016. Currently about 1 in 6 eligible children are served by CCDBG. This was the cornerstone of Obama’s State of the Union middle class message but needs significant bipartisan support for funding increases to include. While this has received significant press and we are at new levels of voter support for early care and learning, the dollar amount for this will probably be to steep to include. We may see a down payment on this in the final budget at a lower funding level.
  • $75 billion for Preschool for All over 10 years to provide universal high quality preschool as outlined in the 2015 budget proposal and 2014 State of the Union. This has the lowest probability of being included—in football terms, it is Obama’s Hail Mary.

After hundreds of pages of document review, three amazing presentations at the NHSA Winter Leadership Conference, and countless conversations with peers, I am still only grasping at straws in my analysis of what will be included. With the next Presidential race coming up sooner than we realize, a staunchly divided government, but yet a public supportive of early care and education, it is difficult for even for the best political analyst (which I am not) to guess at what will occur in the coming months.

One fact remains: President Obama’s budget did will not adhere to the sequester caps that are currently in place. Unless congress makes changes to sequester caps in law, this budget will not happen. There are two important dates to look at to determine how the budget is progressing—mid-March for the budget mark up in committee and April 15 for the final budget resolution.

In advance of these dates, the President is rallying politicians around the numerous, oft-cited research studies that show the most formative years of a child’s life shape the foundation for learning, school, and workforce success. Unfortunately, in the United States 1 in 5 children live in poverty, and as a result we have an achievement gap of up to 60 percentage points. We know this is short changing our collective future. What we are learning in the global economy is that the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens. Because of this, the early care and learning agenda speaks to people on both sides of the political spectrum. Therefore, my summary is that the outcome of this budget is impossible to determine.

I look to Vanessa Rich’s words at the NHSA Winter Leadership Conference to inspire me that this budget is possible. During her remarks she said, “In the budget stalemate of 2014, Congress found the collective common sense to increase early learning funding.” I am hopeful that this “common sense” will continue.

Remember what I said in January ... 2015 is going to be a wild ride!

Rebecca


QRIS: How the CLASS Measure Fits In