By Kate Meyer*
The National Women’s Law Center hosted a call last week on What’s Next for Early Childhood in the 112th Congress with speakers Helen Blank of the National Women’s Law Center, Danielle Ewen of CLASP, Adele Robinson of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and Harriet Dichter of the First Five Years Fund. All of the presenters emphasized the importance of continuing to fund early childhood programs, especially childcare, Head Start, and Early Head Start, and were hopeful about the pending creation of the Early Learning Challenge Fund .
Unfortunately, we’ve recently witnessed the turning of tides from public investments to slashing budgets. The speakers addressed the difficulties of advocating for sustained and increased funding, or even the creation of new programs, in the current political climate of cuts, cuts, cuts. John Boehner, the newly inaugurated Republican Speaker of the House, is aiming to cut non-security discretionary spending back to 2008 levels. Helen Blank shared the shocking estimate of the impact it would have on children in this country: we would lose 255,000 children from childcare programs, 120,000 from Head Start, and the loss of ARRA funds would bump an additional 300,000  kids from all early childhood programs. This means that we could see up to 675,000 kids denied access to childcare, Head Start and Early Head Start combined. Begin to fight back by collecting data on both the positive impact of funding early childhood programs in your community and the negative effect of the loss of funds, advised the speakers. They suggested documenting the experiences of women and families affected by the rollercoaster funding of child care programs as well as institutions and providers who are threatened.
The budget for fiscal year 2011 is set to be determined on March 4th, so there is still time to raise awareness about the importance of continuing to fund early childhood initiatives. The National Women’s Law Center suggested the following talking points for reaching out to people:
- Protect funding for child care, Head Start, and Early Head Start to help us build a smarter, healthier, and stronger America.
- Sustain the $1 billion funding for Head Start/Early Head Start as well as the $1 billion funding for child care during FY 2011.
- Maintain these levels into FY 2012.
*Kate Meyer is a Research and Programs Intern with the National Council for Research on Women