Congress has passed—and President Obama has signed—two major bills that positively impact early childhood care and education in a significant way.
Firstly, the $1.1 trillion Omnibus appropriations bill includes nearly $1 billion in new money for early childhood. These dollars fund increases for critical programs which support children from low income families including the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Early Head Start and Head Start, and the Preschool Development Grants.
Funding for CCDBG has been increased by $326 million from 2015 and Head Start by $570 million from 2015. And, within the increased investment in Head Start are federal dollars specifically allocated for Early Head Start and Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships, demonstrating federal commitment to supporting early learning for our nation’s youngest children in the critically important earliest years. As a grantee of an Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership Grant, Early Learning Ventures has seen first-hand, the benefits these partnerships can provide to children and families, and is excited to see this expanded funding which will continue to elevate the quality of child care programs across the country.
Additionally, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a bipartisan measure that reauthorizes the national education law, which has been known as “No Child Left Behind” since 2001. ESSA returns much of the decision-making power to individual states and reducing its one-size-fits-all approach. President Obama eagerly signed ESSA in to law on December 10. “The goals of No Child Left Behind, the predecessor of this law, were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap,” Obama said. “But in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.”
ESSA represents the first time early childhood education provisions were included in the 50-year-old law. The inclusion of the Preschool Development Grants program, and the enhanced early learning and elementary education provisions represent historic support for high quality early childhood education.