The fiscal year 2013 federal budget that President Obama released last week contains cause for at least cautious optimism, as summarized by the National Institute for Early Education Research, CLASP, the National Women’s Law Center and the First Five Years Fund. “Early education,” says NIEER, “is clearly an administration priority, though perhaps not as high a priority as we would like.”
Here are some highlights, culled from their reports:
- Child Care Development Block Grant. An $825 million increase, to $3.417 billion, with $300 million of discretionary funding going to quality improvement grants.
- Head Start. An $85 million increase, to $8.054 billion, which the administration says is enough to maintain current enrollment.
- Race to the Top. $850 million, with a “significant portion” – as yet unspecified – going to early learning, according to a U.S. Department of Education news release.
- Child care subsidies for children in low-income families. An additional $7 billion over 10 years.
- IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act). A $20 million increase, to $452.7 million, in services for infants and toddlers; and level funding at $372.6 million of grants to states to support early education for 3- to 5-year-old children with disabilities.
See a table tracking federal spending on early education from Early Ed Watch, a blog of the New America Foundation. The foundation also poses a number of questions about Obama’s budget, among them questions about the Early Learning Challenge and whether funds for extending school hours could be used to expand half-day kindergarten programs to full day.
One final note. Obama’s budget is viewed more as a blueprint of his vision going into the 2012 election than as a springboard for timely action on Capitol Hill. As Birth to Thrive Online notes, “The Obama administration’s budget is only the first move in a high-stakes game that will be complicated this year by presidential and congressional politics.”