There was news on early childhood at the federal level last week—both good and bad.
On Saturday, the Senate passed the federal budget for the 2012 fiscal year. There were small increases in several areas of early childhood funding, including an increase in the funds that supports child care subsidy for low income, working families and that provide slots for Head Start classrooms. While not sufficient to meet the growing need for early learning resources in Pennsylvania, this positive budget news is a win for early learning advocates and a welcome sign from a Congress that just a few months ago was considering cuts to early education. For a more comprehensive look at the FY12 federal budget, visit New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative.
On Friday, nine states were announced as winners of the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, a $500-million competition for four-year grants to improve coordination of early learning programs and promote school readiness for disadvantaged children. Pennsylvania, unfortunately, was not among them, missing out on up to $70 million in federal funds. Although Pennsylvania was considered a strong contender, as a leader in coordinating a state early learning system, it ended up 16th out of 37 states applying. This rejection hampers the state’s timeframe for implementing its plans, especially those that would have strengthened the quality rating system to programs serving young children and their families. For a look at what reviewers said about Pennsylvania’s application, check out the results here.
While goings-on in Washington can seem pretty far away, federal funding makes up more than half of the money that Pennsylvania has to spend on early childhood care and education, so it makes sense for those of us who care about young children to pay attention.