Senate subcommittee votes 'yes' on piece of Obama's preschool proposal

July 10, 2013

(This story has been updated.)

Early education advocates are cheering the first concrete Congressional action on President Barack Obama’s preschool plan. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies voted Tuesday to approve $750 million in competitive grants to help states develop preschool programs and $1.6 billion in additional funds for Head Start that should help that program ward off some of the effects of the sequester.

“We are hopeful that (Tuesday’s) legislative developments will have a profound impact on the development and well-being of our nation’s youngest children,” said Kris Perry, the executive director of the national advocacy group for young children, First Five Years Fund, in a statement.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also praised the action in a statement released Tuesday, calling it the “first step” in achieving the Obama administration’s stated goal of making high-quality preschool programs available to all children. The subcommittee’s action represented just one small piece of the president’s proposal, which calls for investing $75 billion in early childhood programs over the next decade, financed, in part, by an increased federal tobacco tax. Several key elements of that larger plan have yet to be finalized, and it likely faces a tough fight in the House of Representatives.

The appropriations bill approved Tuesday by the Democrat-controlled subcommittee was approved by the Appropriations Committee on July 11, but still must pass the full Senate.

The House of Representatives, where Democrats do not hold the majority, has not yet taken any steps to approve the president’s education budget requests.

If the proposal makes it through Congress, it would be the largest new federal investment in early childhood education since Head Start began in the mid-1960s.

Read Education Week’s coverage of the Subcommittee’s bill.

Lillian Mongeau covers early childhood education. Contact her or follow her @lrmongeau.

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