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Quality Emphasis Part of Proposed Changes to Child-Care Block Grant

School readiness may become part of the renewal of the child-care block grant program, my colleague Alyson Klein writes in a recent Education Week article.

Billions of federal dollars (about $5.2 billion this fiscal year) have been distributed to states through the Child Care and Development Fund, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The money, along with state matching funds, is used to provide vouchers to low-income parents to help cover the costs of daycare and after-school care.

A renewal measure pending in the U.S. Senate would encourage states to use part of the money to bolster the quality of child-care providers. The story continues:

States also would be required to put in place basic safety measures, including background checks for program employees.

"There's a lot more interest in children starting school ready to learn. That's kind of evolved over the last 15 to 20 years," said Grace Reef, who worked on the initial development of the program as a Senate aide in the 1990s. She is now the founder of the Early Learning Policy Group, a consulting organization in Burke, Va.

"There's a lot more policymakers making that connection that, hey, the achievement gap doesn't just start in kindergarten," she said.

If children are going to start school ready to learn, Ms. Reef added, "you don't want a family child-care center with the TV on all day. But in many states, there's no restriction."

There's no corresponding action in the U.S. House of Representatives to renew the program, but supporters of this proposal are hoping that if the Senate takes action, the House will do so, also. But there are a lot of issues on Congress' plate right now, and early learning may end up taking a back seat.

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