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Senate Committee Vote Cheered by Early-Education Advocates

The Senate Appropriations committee voted today on an early-education boost that would provide a $1.6 billion increase to Head Start, as well as $750 million in funds intended to improve the quality of state preschool programs.

My colleague Alyson Klein wrote a thorough piece on the legislation earlier this week when it was under consideration by the education subcommittee. Now that the bill has cleared the full panel by a party-line 16-14 vote with the Democrats voting in favor, it will be brought before the Senate for consideration.

As Alyson and I have written in other posts, getting new spending through Congress is a challenge. But that didn't stop early-education advocates, who have ceaselessly tried to keep attention on expanding services, from applauding the measure.

"While today's action reflects a strong commitment to providing greater access to early learning, sequester continues to inflict very real and devastating pain, affecting tens of thousands of Head Start children and families nationwide," said a statement from Yasmina Vinci, the director of the National Head Start Association, which represents providers. (I've written about the impact of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration on Head Start programs, and more effects are expected to be seen in this coming school year unless funding increases.)

Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, said the full panel vote is the culmination of a "terrific, momentum-building week." She continued, "you can see there is a commitment to states to help them get ready," and advocates can build on that move.

But while praising the appropriations committee, Perry acknowledged that the $75 billion proposal from the Obama administration to help fund high-quality state preschool is a "heavy lift." And with Washington lawmakers poised to return to their home states in August, she said she hoped advocates would continue personal outreach to their representatives and senators.

"Most members are very responsive to their constituents," she said. "Hopefully what you'll see is more stories coming out of states."

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