The new budget accord forged by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would eliminate further planned cuts to Head Start due to sequestration—although no additional money for early education is likely to come from the agreement.
Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding in Washington, explained the deal. Sequestration cut about $26 billion in non-defense discretionary spending from the fiscal year 2013 budget. Head Start falls under that category, and the cuts resulted in the loss of funding for about 57,000 slots. The budget plan would restore about $22.5 billion of the domestic money for fiscal 2014. So, about 87 percent of the money could come back to agencies and funding streams that sustained cuts.
But that's only if Congress decides to bring back money to every entity evenly. Lawmakers could decide to fully restore the $400 million pared from Head Start's budget (which now stands at about $7.6 billion). Grantees handled that cut by reducing days and closing centers as well as by cutting enrollment in the program, which serves about a million women, infants, and children up to age 4. But if the lawmakers fully restore Head Start to fiscal 2012 levels, that means less money for some other program or programs. The current continuing budget resolution expires Jan. 15, so Congress has until then to figure out just how much money all of these programs will get.
The current climate makes it that much harder to envision Congress agreeing to an increased federal investment in early childhood, such as that proposed in the Strong Start for Children Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the House and Senate in November. Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, said that act represents another opportunity "to get it right."
"Supporting locally based early-education efforts by strengthening current programs and providing greater access to low- and moderate-income families is just what this country needs right now," she said in a statement.