President Obama and Congress Agree to a Two-Year Budget Deal

Yesterday, President Obama signed a two-year agreement that would that would lift the spending caps imposed by sequestration, and provide $80 billion in new non-defense spending for FY 2016 and 2017.  The agreement also suspends the debt limit, which was set to expire today, until March 2017.  While this deal is designed to prevent further fiscal battles for the remainder of the Obama Administration, Congress still needs to pass a budget by December 11 to avoid a government shutdown.

With the authorized $80 billion increase ($50 billion is expected to be available in FY 2016), Obama-signs-budget-bill-averting-government-shutdownCongressional leaders have been discussing how to allocate the funding to critical domestic programs.  According to conversations with numerous Capitol Hill staffers, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill is expected to benefit from this deal, however, explicit details on how much of a funding increase it would receive will not be known until a draft Omnibus spending bill is published.  As a reminder, both the House and Senate proposed funding the LHHSE bill at roughly $3.5 billion less than what was provided in FY 2015.

At this time, it’s unknown how child care and early education programs, including CCDBG and Head Start, will fare with the boost in spending.  However, since President Obama has made child care a top priority over the last several years, including his $82 billion proposal in February, it’s possible a final FY 2016 deal could include funding levels closer to what the President asked from Congress in his budget request.

More details will be provided in the coming weeks, and we expect to see a draft FY 2016 Omnibus spending proposal around Thanksgiving.

New Survey Shows Wide Support for School Meal and Dietary Guidelines

14649007642_2d009fb970_zAccording to a survey sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a majority of Americans support the national school nutrition standards. The poll found that 9 out of 10 people in the United States support the national school nutrition standards, which were revised in 2010 as part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. Additionally, 86 percent of people asked say that school nutrition standards should stay the same or be strengthened.

Though the poll focused primarily on school nutrition, one question explored opinions of child care nutrition. 77 percent of respondents stated that they support expanding similar nutritional guidelines to early childhood education programs. This could be considered good news for the Department of Agriculture, which earlier this year proposed meal pattern updates to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that are consistent with the National School Lunch Program. The proposed changes would align the meal pattern requirements for meals provided to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who receive meals in child care settings to the meals provided to children in school settings.

Improving the quality of food served in CACFP will have a large impact on the health and nutrition of children in this country. 3.3 million children receive meals and snacks through CACFP each day. USDA data shows that in 2014, 48.1 million Americans lived in households that struggler with hunger. For children living in those households that attend centers participating in CACFP, these meals are a vital source of energy and nutrition.

Some opponents to the revised meal patterns claim that the revisions will increase food waste as children will not eat the new foods presented to them. In fact, research shows that repeated exposure to food will increase their liking of it. In short—if they are served the food in the CACFP program over time, they may develop a taste for it over time. This will have a halo effect on preferences in the home and when the children move into the school lunch program as well.

The poll also found that as satisfaction with the nutritional quality of school lunches has increased, so do their concerns about obesity and hunger. 89 percent of respondents think that obesity is a crisis or a problem and 79 percent of respondents believe that food insecurity is a crisis or a problem.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation poll was developed to determine whether the public’s perception of nutrition in schools has changed since the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act revised nutritional standards for the National School Lunch Program in 2010. The poll results show that 67 percent of individuals asked believe that the nutritional quality of the food in their schools has increased since the new standards went into effect. 70 percent of respondents rate school lunches as good or excellent, which is an increase of 41 percent from the 2010 poll.

You can find more information about the 2015 School Food Poll here.

Photo caption: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, city, state and federal leadership, serve lunches to children at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, MD on Friday, Jul. 11, 2014. The visit highlights the USDA national campaign to expand access to healthy meals in the summer months and the Department’s efforts to reduce the impacts of poverty and food insecurity. (USDA photo by Lance Cheung.)


Congress Approves Temporary Funding Measure, Continues to Work on Final FY 2016 Budget

Earlier today, Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution (CR) keeping the Federal government funded through December 11. The CR includes no spending cuts to any domestic programs and, instead, funds all programs at FY 2015 levels as leaders negotiate a final deal.

While the CR easily passed both chambers of Congress, it will be extremely difficult to pass a year-long bill before the end of the year. The most notable reason is the departure of House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), who announced his resignation late last week. Speaker Boehner’s last day in Congress is October 30.

Boehner’s replacement, who will likely be House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), will be under the same intense pressure from the base of the House Republican caucus to keep the discretionary spending caps in place for FY 2016. Additionally, the new speaker will have to hold another vote to raise DSC08585the debt ceiling in November, as well as address the extension of a number of tax breaks set to expire on December 31.

While there is a great deal of uncertainty in the House, there has been growing bi-partisan support in the Senate for raising the spending caps to allow for more discretionary funding for domestic, non-defense programs. In fact, Senator Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has publicly acknowledged that negotiations on lifting the caps will happen soon with the President and congressional Democrats.

There also have been ongoing discussions of the possibility of a “grand bargain,” where the FY 2016 budget would be rolled into a multi-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund, along with a tax bill addressing the current provisions set to expire at the end of the year.

President Obama has maintained his commitment to vetoing any spending bill that does not lift the current discretionary caps. However, if House and Senate leaders are nowhere near a deal in early December, the likelihood of a year-long CR being enacted increases dramatically. If that were to happen, it’s possible that a deal could be struck to lift the caps to add some new funding for discretionary.

It’s also possible we could have another government shutdown in December.

We will provide updates and opportunities to advocate for early childhood funding.

Jordan Soto Says Farewell


By summer intern Jordan Soto

When I was young it was my dream to be the President of the United States. At five years old until around middle school I adamantly expressed my aspiration of becoming the leader of the free world to anyone who would listen and even to those who didn’t. Many thought this was silly but to me it was reality. Fortunately, I was blessed with parents who were able to provide many opportunities while always supporting me no matter what. I was always told that I could do anything I wanted and I believed it. Encouragement is important but without a viable pathway toward success, sadly it can futile.

I no longer wish to pursue that lofty career goal but I do, however, want to be an advocate promoting important issues that I am passionate about. One such issue is the increased need for quality affordable child care and early childhood education, especially for children from low-income families. Going into my third and final year of law school (thank goodness) I knew it was important to think about the trajectory of my career when determining where to spend my final summer before finding actual employment. Since the beginning of my law school career I have been interested in taking a somewhat different post-graduation route than many of my fellow classmates. I plan to employ the legal knowledge and skill I have attained to really help people in a meaningful way, but on a more holistic rather than individual level. Having a strong understanding of the law can be utilized as an essential tool in promoting important policy and social change benefiting those who need it most.

In my search for a summer internship, I knew that I wanted to get involved with an organization doing positive work at the national level. Opportunely, I connected with some great people at Child Care Aware® of America and shortly after, enthusiastically accepted a summer policy internship position. So this summer I have had the pleasure of learning from the policy team at CCAoA. I was not really sure what my experience would be like but what I did know was that this organization is the nation’s leading voice on child care so I was quite confident that it would be a positive one.

I have learned so much working with amazing, intelligent and passionate individuals. Further, I truly believe that the work done at Child Care Aware® of America is not only vital to the success of children but to our country as a whole. Early childhood education and child care provide an atmosphere that facilitates strong early development and promotes school readiness. These factors greatly increase children’s chances of success and open pathways that may have been otherwise unavailable. When children get a good start they are more likely to graduate high school, go to college and stay out of the juvenile justice system. This experience taught me what it means to be a strong advocate and promote policies that could have a huge impact on our most vulnerable citizens. Quality affordable child care is important but I have realized it is even more than that, it is a necessity.

The unfortunate reality is that many children do not have the access, means or support that I did growing up. Many children may never have the opportunity or ability to pursue their dreams. Without these services many families face significant roadblocks to prosperity and are simply unable to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. These facts are unjust and unfair. Every child in this country should have access to opportunities, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. Every child deserves a chance to dream BIG and find success. Early childhood education and child care is the answer and I have learned what part I can play in making that idea a reality.

Thank you, Child Care Aware® of America for solidifying what is important to me as an individual and as a young professional. I have learned so much about myself, policy, and the importance of being an advocate. I will be leaving this experience with a profound desire to be a part of something much bigger than me. For all these things and more, this was a remarkable and irreplaceable experience.

Makala Graves Says Farewell

MakalaGravesBy Summer Intern Makala Graves

For most college students the arrival of summer means relaxation, the stressful all night studying comes to a cease, and they spend their time poolside, soaking up the sun, and the thought of work or school does not cross their mind until the fall semester comes back around.

However, for some students, like myself, both anxious and indecisive, and looking to gain real-world experience, we spent our summer interning.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the Nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. (Well, Arlington, Virginia…still pretty close) with Child Care Aware® of America’s (CCAoA) policy team, and I can honestly say that my experience has been nothing less the phenomenal!

As long as I can remember, my parents have drilled the importance of my future into my brain, and as a rising junior in college it is finally starting to stick. My past years of college have been filled with trying and getting to know different fields of study, and liking but never loving really any of them. This past semester, after taking political science and social work classes it all clicked for me, I realized I wanted to advocate but had no idea how to mix advocating with my love of politics and public relations. This dilemma motivated my search to find an internship where I could hone both of these interests, and that’s when I came across Child Care Aware® of America.

After interviewing with Child Care Aware® of America, I knew this is exactly where I needed to be. I cannot describe my first week in the office as anything less fascinating. My first day was spent on Capitol Hill where I got to listen to important briefings and government issues, and report back to my bosses, and I can say every day following has been just as great as the first.

I am very proud and thankful to be a part of it what Child Care Aware® of America is doing. The work done at CCAoA is extremely fulfilling, everyone is extremely passionate about their work here, and as an intern it is only motivation to work harder. During this summer internship, I have been given the opportunity to work on government documents, advocate for the importance of affordable and quality child care for families, and enjoy some of the best food places in Arlington with intern lunches!

What I have learned from my summer with Child Care Aware® of America is invaluable – this internship has turned out to be one of the best summers of my life, and has assured me that this is the work I want to do.

I am extremely thankful to Child Care Aware® of America, especially the policy team, for giving me such a wonderful experience. What I learned here will stick with me for a lifetime!

Teaching Children Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Education

512px-Multiculturalism_squareBy Summer Intern Makala Graves

One of the most pressing issues that families and educators both face today is raising children to be both culturally competent and sensitive to their environment from a young age. It is vital that children learn how to respect and accept people whose culture and background differ from their own. Without implementing these values into our children, we put them at risk of growing up into adults who contribute to the problems brought on by the discrimination in society. It is the responsibility of educators and parents to help prepare children at an early age with the knowledge, attitude, and skills to be able to excel in our complex and diverse world.

The infrastructure of self-awareness begins at the infant and toddler stages, it is during this time period that children begin to understand who they are. In fact, according to Scan Virginia, children as young as two, start to become aware of differences such as gender, ethnicity, and disability. It is also during this time of adolescence that children become sensitive to both the negative and positive attitudes and biases attached to identity as reflected by their family, school, community, or just the world in general.

According to UUA’s general assembly of 2012, it is by the age of 9, that children’s cultural attitudes are set in, and tend to stay constant, unless the child is faced with a life changing event. This is why it is imperative to teach children cultural competence at ages early as preschool.

The task and responsibility of teaching cultural competence to preschool aged children is one that many may find burdensome. However, it can be quite straight forward. With young children, educators and families can start with activities such as doing skin color match-ups with flesh colored crayons, doing thumbprints to show the similarities and differences among other children, or even having children explain to each other their family’s traditions. The best place to implement these activities would be in a place that is diverse, such as a classroom. When children are taught to understand these cultural differences, they are more likely to accept them.

To ensure, early education facilities are taking the necessary steps to promote cultural competence, regardless of the activities one chooses to do that, the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block grant (CCDBG) will provide training to parents and educators to prepare them with the necessary tools to provide high quality education on cultural diversity among other things. With the collaboration of educators and families, we can teach children cultural competence and acceptance, and shape them to be the future leaders this community needs.

Preschoolers in a classroom with their teacher.

Emma Boelter Says Farewell

EmmaBy Summer Intern, Emma Boelter

Over the past two months working with CCAoA as a policy and research intern I have explored a variety of topics and gained so much valuable experience –I’ve learned about the importance of accessible and affordable child care, how to advocate for positive policy change, how to analyze legislative language, and much more. The first day of my internship I felt nervous and uncertain of what to expect. Is my outfit actually business casual? Is this the correct building? What is a CCDBG? Am I asking too many questions? Thankfully, I was given the first few days to acclimate to my new environment. I did A LOT of reading and research.

This thorough research provided me with a solid basis that prepared me for several projects throughout my remaining weeks. I worked on a variety of projects including updating a database for state child care requirements, attending webinars, working with social media, and creating advocacy tool kits.

I also had the opportunity to attend briefings and hearings on the Hill, which was my favorite aspect of my internship program. I enjoyed getting an inside look as to how policy gets discussed and passed through our government. The experience has encouraged me to step up my advocacy efforts and to get more involved with civil discourse in the future.

One of my favorite briefings was hosted by Save the Children, and the conversation centered around disaster preparedness policies for children, with a focus on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As a student at Tulane University, which is located in the city of New Orleans, I found this discussion to be particularly relevant and enlightening.

The speakers discussed that while progress has been made in the implementation of appropriate and effective disaster plans for children across the nation, significant amounts of work still remain to be accomplished. This briefing left me feeling inspired to get involved with this issue and I plan to do so once I return to New Orleans next semester.

More than anything, my time spent at CCAoA has reinforced the idea that whatever my future career endeavors turn out to be, I feel compelled to work with an organization that strives to improve the well-being of our country. I’m inspired by the determination and passion exhibited by the policy team each day at CCAoA, and admire their dedication toward a cause they truly believe in. I feel fortunate to have had an internship here this summer and look forward to becoming a more active advocate for children’s’ rights and other public policy that concerns the well-being and prosperity of all Americans.

Reauthorization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)


The reauthorization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) has a congressional Fall deadline. The CACFP is a federal program serving more than 3 million children in child care, Head Start, and after school programs across the country. With more science and academic reports explaining the benefits of healthy diets for kids, Congress will need to appropriately fund the program in order to ensure access to quality and nutritious foods for all children.

Today, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the ‘Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015’ which would reduce the CACFP area eligibility from 50 percent to 40 percent to streamline access and expand eligibility to include more low-income children, give child care centers and family child care centers with the option of serving a reimbursable third meal, and increase the reimbursement rate for CACFP sponsoring organizations.

The science is there and statistics have proven that healthy, nutritious meals directly impact children’s ability to learn, cognitive development, physical development, emotions and social skills.

As child care providers, educators and community leaders we would encourage you to get involved by asking your member of Congress to support the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015.

Learn more about the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015 and share with your friends, family and colleagues.

Want to take action? FRAC has a toolkit you can use to schedule a visit for your member of Congress at a local CACFP site near you. Representatives are more likely to support and fund these programs if they see the work they do up close!

Senate Approves Bi-Partisan Overhaul of No Child Left Behind

Earlier today, the Senate approved the “Every Child Achieves Act” (S. 1177) with an 81-17 vote. S. 1177 would replace No Child Left Behind and would retain some features of the current law, including standardized testing, but overall S. 1177 would give more flexibility to states and reduce the Federal government’s role in the nation’s education policy.

The “Every Child Achieves Act” includes a proposal to authorize a new early education grant to states to improve early childhood education coordination, quality, and access, and would specifically target resources for low- and moderate-income families.  Additionally, S. 117 creates a new literacy program that includes a set-aside for early learning initiatives.

Shortly before the Senate approved the bill, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) offered an amendment authorizing the Preschool Development Grants program, as well as the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.”  The amendment failed on a 45-52 vote.

At this time, it’s unclear what the next steps are with regards to sending a final bill to President Obama.  boypaintingWhile the Senate bill represents a strong, bi-partisan agreement, the House bill, which barely passed last week, is much different and proposes far more drastic changes to the country’s K-12 education policy.  The House version, known as the “Student Success Act,” goes much further in eliminating the Federal government’s role in holding schools accountable, especially for low-income districts.

While President Obama has expressed concerns about the Senate-passed measure, he has threatened to veto the House version.  However, this should not be interpreted that the President would sign S. 1177.

Congressional leaders could reach a compromise between the House and Senate bills, but it seems very unlikely that a majority of House Republicans would support this.  Therefore, House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), would need the support of nearly the entire Democratic caucus and some Republicans to approve such a bill.  However, this would be a violation of the “Hastert Rule,” which is the legislating principle that any bill should be able to pass with a House Republican majority.  Even if a compromise bill clears the House, it could face the threat of a filibuster in the Senate.

We will continue to monitor this and keep you updated.

Senate to Begin Debating Bi-Partisan Overhaul of ESEA This Week

Tomorrow, the Senate will begin deliberating S. 1177, the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), something Congress has not done since 2001. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved this bill on April 16.

ESEA oversees the nation’s K-12 policy, as well as promotes early learning initiatives. S. 1177 proposes significant changes to the current law, including the creation of a new early education grant to states to improve early childhood education coordination, quality, and access, and would specifically target resources for low- and moderate-income families. In addition, the current bill creates a new literacy program with a set-aside for early learning, and clarifies existing use of early education funds under Title I.

During consideration of S. 1177 on the Senate floor, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) will offer an amendment to senate-vote-freedom-act.sithe bill that would authorize and fund the Preschool Development Grant program, and the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2015” (H.R. 2411/ S. 1380).  Click here for more information on the Senator’s amendment, as well as here to see how each state would financially benefit from it. You can read more about the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2015” here.

A final vote on S. 1177 may take several weeks due to the number of amendments that will be considered.  While the White House has not publicly weighed in on S. 1177, Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Department of Education, “applauded” the Senate bill shortly after it was approved by the HELP Committee in April.  However, President Obama has threatened to veto the House version of this legislation, the “Student Success Act,” (H.R. 5), which was approved by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in February.