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Early-Childhood Aid in Play as Budget Wrangling Continues

My colleague Alyson Klein reports the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill to keep the government from shutting down in the next two weeks, buying time for lawmakers to pass a budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which ends on Sept. 30. The short-term measure would cut K-12 spending, but only one early-learning program, Even Start, would be eliminated.

However, as First Five Years Fund's Cornelia Grumman observes, House Republicans are proposing deep cuts to early-childhood spending for the rest of 2011. Grumman says under their proposals 218,000 children would lose spots in Head Start and Early Head Start, and another 150,000 low-income children in child care would lose services. Advocates will be pushing hard to restore these funds; a recent conference call on the topic for early-childhood advocates drew over 1,000 listeners.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget proposal looks more promising. The good news for early-childhood advocates is that the proposal would provide $350 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund (essentially, Race to the Top for early education), $866 million for Head Start and Early Head Start, and $1.3 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. However, if the 2011 cuts go through, these numbers are likely to be a hard sell with Congress.

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