Early Learning Challenge Fund -- Trimmed to an 8-Year Program -- Is Approved by House Committee
A major new federal investment in early education, the Early Learning Challenge Grant program that was included in legislation introduced last week by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, and which we wrote about here, cleared its first hurdle on the way to becoming law yesterday. The House Committee on Education and Labor passed a reconciliation bill that would overhaul federal student loan programs and use some of the savings from those reforms to fund Early Learning Challenge Grants.
As included in the committee-passed bill, the Early Learning Challenge Grant program is virtually unchanged from Miller's original bill. But the House committee did chop funding for the Early Learning Challenge Grants in the last years of the reconciliation bill's 10-year time frame. Instead of a program that sends $1 billion to states each year until 2019, the program is now described as ending in 2017. In other words, the new bill sets the funding at $8 billion over 8 years intead of $10 billion over 10.
The trim may be a result of an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, obtained by New America's Education Policy program. The CBO's projections, drawn up after the bill was introduced last week, showed that the overall student-aid bill would start costing $1 billion by 2019, instead of saving money each year. Because the bill is moving through Congress as a reconciliation bill, instead of an annual appropriations bill, it must adhere to certain rules that apply to the reconciliation process, one of which is that it must show cost savings in later years.
In addition, a change made to the legislation during the mark-up process yesterday led to a $2.7 billion reduction in the amount of money being saved by student-loan reforms. That change, which was the elimination of a controversial provision related to financial aid, may have required legislators to look toward the early learning grants to fill the gap.
Now the bill will go to the House floor, where it is expected to be voted on before Congress's summer recess. We'll keep you posted on developments as they happen.