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Head Start, Child Care See Boosts Under Congressional Budget Deal

Head Start, the federally funded preschool program for children from low-income families, would see an increase of $570 million, to $9.2 billion, in a fiscal 2016 budget bill announced Wednesday by the House appropriations committee. 

In addition, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which helps low-income families pay for child care, would see an additional $326 million for a total of $2.8 billion. 

In 2014, Congress revamped the child-care block grant program to improve safety and quality. New rules are in place that are intended to reduce "churn" in the program, such as when a family's eligibility changes after a family member gets a job or a pay increase. 

The Head Start increase in the appropriations bill is smaller than President Barack Obama's proposal, which would have increased Head Start funding to $10.1 billion. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start, recently released proposed rules that represent a major change in quality standards. Among the proposed changes would have been a shift to a six-hour day and a 180-day year for center-based Head Start programs. The current minimum requirement for Head Start programs is three hours a day and 128 days a year. 

That proposed shift to a longer day and year—which has been controversial among Head Start providers—would cost about $1 billion. The House appropriations bill falls short of that increase, but the National Head Start Association, which represents providers, was among the groups praising Congress for the increase. 

The bill "is an encouraging step forward in our shared commitment to ensuring every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the opportunity to succeed," said Yasmina Vinci, the executive director of the association, in a statement. 

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