Early Learning Challenge Fund
It occurred to us recently that readers might be wondering about the status and outlook for the Student Financial Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) legislation currently pending in Congress that would, among other things, establish a new Early Learning Challenge Grant program to support states in developing comprehensive, statewide birth-to-five early childhood systems. Fortunately, our colleagues at Higher Ed Watch have provided a useful update!
As readers may recall, SAFRA passed the House of Representatives in mid-September. Now the action moves to the Senate--except that there's not much SAFRA action to report there, because the bill, like a lot of other things in Washington these days, is on hold until the Senate comes to resolution on health care reform.
As Congress determines how to spend federal dollars in the next fiscal year, a significant federal investment in advancing preschoolers’ literacy skills – Early Reading First – appears to be in jeopardy.
On Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the fiscal year 2010 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which includes funding for major federal early childhood programs. Last week, we reported on the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the same legislation.
When it comes to early childhood programs, the two bills have a lot in common. Both would hold funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to its fiscal year 2009 level of $2.1 billion, and both would provide a modest $122 million increase in funding for Head Start, raising total Head Start funding to $7.2 million.
This morning the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which includes a provision establishing Early Learning Challenge Grants for states, got another push, this time from Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
On May 7 the Office of Management and Budget released the President’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2010. As Early Ed Watch reported at the time, that budget includes funding for several new early education programs, including Title I Early Childhood Grants, Early Learning Challenge Fund, Early Literacy Grants, and Home Visitation. Yesterday, we looked at proposals for Title I Early Childhood Grants. Today we consider the Early Learning Challenge Fund.
During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, then Senator Barack Obama put forward a “Zero-to-Five” early childhood agenda. The centerpiece of this agenda was a proposal to create a new program of Early Learning Challenge Grants designed to both help and push states to improve quality and coordination amongst the various early childhood care and education programs that serve young children below the age of compulsory school attendance. The President’s fiscal year 2010 budget requests $300 million in funding for an Early Learning Challenge Fund to make such grants to states.