Congress has passed a spending bill for 2018, and it increases funding for early childhood, including child care, early learning, and early intervention, reflecting the priorities of most Americans.
The plan includes:
- $2.37 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. As we reported in February, those federal funds are used in North Carolina to help families afford child care and to help ensure that child care is high quality. CLASP estimatesthat 10,380 additional children could benefit in NC with the additional federal funds.
- $610 million increase for Head Start, $115 million of which is for Early Head Start and will be used for Early Head Start expansion or Early Head Start/child care partnerships. Funding in 2016 for North Carolina supported 46 Head Start programs and 35 Early Head Start programs serving just over 22,000 young children and their families. The National Head Start Association estimates that in North Carolina, only 16 percent of eligible preschoolers have access to Head Start, and only four percent of eligible infants and toddlers have access to Early Head Start.
- $300 million increase for Title I Grants for Local Educational Agencies. This funding provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards. Title I funds reach about 1.5 million students in North Carolina, most of whom (77 percent) are in preschool through sixth grade.
- $35 million increase for a program that funds child care for mothers in college. Though this program did not fund any colleges in NC last year, this investment more than triples its funding, which means it will expand its reach.
- $20 million increase for 21stCentury Community Learning Centers which supports after school programs. Currently in North Carolina, funds support 45 after school programs, mostly run by public schools or nonprofits.
- $12.8 million increase for Part B Sec 619 of IDEA, which provides early intervention services for preschoolers with disabilities or developmental delays.
- $11.4 million increase for Part C of IDEA, which provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays.
- $10 million in new funding for Statewide Family Engagement Centers. This is a new grant program that helps states and school districts promote family involvement in a student’s education. The programs was advocated for by the national PTA. Research shows that students are more likely to see positive school outcomes when their families are engaged in their schooling.
- Level funding for Title II – Part A State Grants. This funding is used for professional development for teachers, in order to provide students from low-income families and students of color with greater access to effective educators.
Each of these investments will push North Carolina closer to the goal of all children reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
- Access to high quality child care and early education has been shown to improve children’s health and development, prepare them for kindergarten, and improve families’ economic security by allowing parents to work.
- With appropriate early intervention supports and services in the early years, children with developmental delays, disabilities and other special educational needs are more likely to be ready for school and have good educational outcomes.
- Wraparound supports like after school programs extend learning for young children and improve families’ economic security by allowing parents to work.
These investments are also in line with North Carolina’s views on the importance of investing in the early years. A 2016 bipartisan poll found that:
- Eighty-six percent of voters rank making sure children get a strong start in life through quality early childhood education as “extremely/very important.”
- A strong majority of Republicans, Independents and Democrats want more investments in early learning—including providing greater access to affordable child care, Smart Start, NC Pre-K, and programs that build parenting skills.
- More than three out of four voters say that high quality early learning programs help set children up for success in middle and high school; help children achieve their third grade reading goals; and help create a larger pool of highly skilled workers in the long term.
In addition, we reported last year that the nation’s governors called on Congress to invest in high quality early care and learning. Looks like Congress listened.