Sarah Tully, EdSource

Norwalk Head Start teacher Marisol Garcia Del Ruiz talks to Dharlyn Soto, 4, about what she wants to write in a card.

President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for 2016-17 promises more support for early childhood programs, including increased funding for child care and preschools.

The budget includes $1.3 billion toward the president’s goal of ensuring that all low-income 4-year-olds in the nation have access to high-quality preschool programs. The Preschool for All initiative would be funded by increases in tobacco taxes.

“Real opportunity begins with education,” Obama said in his budget message. “My budget supports the ambitious goal that all children should have access to high-quality preschool, including kids from low-income families who too often enter kindergarten already behind.”

The proposal also increases grants for child care and supports home visits to pregnant women and vulnerable families with young children.

“This proposal is the president’s signature on a legacy he has created – embedding preschool in the K-12 system, focusing on quality and beginning before birth,” said Giannina Perez, senior director for early childhood policy at Children Now.

“This proposal is the president’s signature on a legacy he has created – embedding preschool in the K-12 system, focusing on quality and beginning before birth,” said Giannina Perez, senior director for early childhood policy at Children Now.

The president’s proposal is in contrast to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for early education, which promises no new funding to expand pre-K programs. However, the governor has made a commitment to eventually provide preschool for all low-income 4-year-olds.

Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, a national advocacy group, said the president’s proposed budget is “a step forward,” but called on Congress to “build on the budget proposal” to ensure adequate funding for early childhood programs. Republicans in Congress, however, have already dismissed the budget as a whole as unbalanced and unrealistic.

Highlights of the president’s proposal for early childhood programs include:

  • $9.6 billion for Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages 0-3), an increase of $434 million from the current budget. This includes $292 million to increase the number of children participating in a full school day program in 2016-17, which research shows is more effective in helping children be ready for kindergarten than programs of shorter duration. This investment builds on the nearly $300 million investment made in 2015-16 to increase the duration of Head Start programs.
  • $2.96 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant, an increase of $200 million over the current budget. The grant would allow more families access to affordable child care and provide funding for states to improve child care standards.
  • $15 billion over 10 years to renew and expand the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which provides voluntary home visits for vulnerable families to improve prenatal care and birth outcomes, early childhood health and development, and school readiness and parenting practices. This program would also be funded by increasing the tobacco tax.
  • $907 million in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act preschool grants for special needs children and to support a program for special needs infants and their families, an increase of $80 million from this year’s budget.
  • $350 million for the Department of Education’s Preschool Development Grants to enhance or expand quality preschool programs in partnership with states, an increase of $100 million from the current budget.

 


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