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A Bite out of the Federal Budget

Each year, once a year, there’s a week that captures the attention and minds of people across the nation. It is a week of intrigue, a week of fear, a week of excitement, and a week that blurs the line between fact, fiction, and wishful thinking. No, I’m not talking about Discovery Channel’s Shark Week – I’m talking about Washington’s Budget week.

Budget week is the week, usually in early February, when the President releases a proposed federal budget to Congress. It is the starting gun for the appropriations season – where Congress and the President decide federal spending for programs such as Head Start. And yes, it’s also the starting gun to another round of partisan posturing and politicking.

It is a marker for negotiations between the two parties as well as between Congress and the President’s Administration. It is a list of presidential priorities and a report card on the Federal government. But, it is NOT a done deal, an executive order, or a finalized law.

The President’s budget announces proposed funding levels for federal programs as well as goes into detail about how well programs have been working, changing, and/or improving over the past year. And it provides an ocean of data – which congressional offices, advocates, researchers, and policy wonks alike comb over to use in their publications such as NHSA’s Head Start Fact Sheets – which are slated to be released next week.

As you may have guessed, this was Budget Week in Washington - with President Obama releasing his eighth and final budget for Federal Fiscal Year 2017 on Tuesday, February 9th. While this budget proposal is not the Great White Proposal of last year providing over $1.5 billion to Head Start, it is a rare and significant Hammerhead proposal that puts us into a strong position moving into the annual appropriations process.

The budget highlights for Head Start

  • President Obama proposed a significant increase of $434 million for Head Start and Early Head Start. This proposal would take Head Start’s total funding up to $9.6 billion.
  • The funding increase for Head Start would go towards the following:
    • $142 million for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to support the Head Start workforce and reduce turnover – $10 million of which would be dedicated to the recent Early Head Start expansion and EHS - Child Care Partnerships.
    • $292 million to expand the duration of Head Start 3- and 4-year old services to full school day, full school year. This would build on the increase of $294 million that was appropriated to Head Start last year by Congress.

The President’s budget also proposes increases for the following early care and education programs

  • Child Care
    • $200 million increase to help states implement changes that came from the recent Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization. This includes a new $40 million competitive pilot program to build the supply of high-quality child care for rural areas and for non-traditional working hours.
    • $3.7 billion increase this year and $82 billion over 10 years in additional funding to ensure high quality child care access for low and moderate-income children under the age of 4. This includes the funding for the recently introduced Child CARE ACT, authored by Sen. Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Crowley (D-NY).
  • Preschool Development Grants
    • $100 million increase (to $350 million total) to continue funding for existing state grantees and to expand the program to new states via the recently authorized program as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2105.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Parts B and C
    • $35 million increase for preschool grants
    • $45 million for infants and toddlers

As Budget week wraps up here in DC, it’s important to remember that we are still a long way from the shore and a final appropriation, but we are heading in the right direction. We are pleased with the President’s budget and we encourage you to use it as chum for the advocacy work needed to continue to strengthen Head Start for current and future generations. Oh, and for all of you non-wonks out there, don’t worry - Shark week is less than 150 days away!

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