Congress Introduces the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2015”

The bi-partisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2015, was introduced today by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Congressmen Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Richard Hanna (R-NY).

Millions of young children from low-and moderate-income families lack access to high-quality, affordable preschool programs. Research has proven that children who attend these programs are more likely to graduate from high school and succeed in their adult lives. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act proposes a 10-year Federal-state partnership to increase access and expand quality early learning opportunities for children ages birth to five.

The legislation includes four key sections: Prekindergarten Access, Early Learning Quality Partnerships, Children with Disabilities, and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

To help understand how the legislation would impact different areas of the early childhood landscape, the following summarizes each section and its implications.

Prekindergarten Access

The legislation would fund preschool for four-year old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), and encourage states to spend their own funds to support preschool for young children with family incomes above that income level.

Some of the highlights include:DSC08585

    • Requiring alignment of early learning standards with the State’s K-12 system that are “developmentally-appropriate, and culturally and linguistically appropriate and address all the domains of school-readiness.”
    • Mixed-delivery eligibility for grants to ensure that states have the maximum flexibility in determining how the preschool grants could be administered to best fit their communities.
    • Requiring establishment of a State Early Childhood Education and Care Council, where it doesn’t currently exist.
    • Improving coordination and participation with other federally-funded early childhood programs including, CCDBG, IDEA part C, and MIECHV.
    • Implementing performance measures and targets designed to increase school readiness, quality programs available, and children in those programs.
    • 10-year Match requirement from states, transitioning from 10% in the first year, to an equal share of the federal amount in the program’s eighth and following years. States do have options to participate in a reduce match rate if they qualify.
    • Prekindergarten Development Grants – For states not currently eligible for the formulaic preschool grants (described above), states could receive grants to help increase their ability to build the infrastructure and workforce and instill quality measures necessary to qualify for the federal formulaic prekindergarten grants in future years.
    • The Department of Health and Human Services would be tasked with developing a process for converting Head Start programs (that currently serve four-year olds) to Early Head Start programs serving three-year olds and infants/toddlers.

Early Learning Quality Partnerships

The legislation would fund the establishment and/or expansion of partnerships between Early Head Start programs and child care providers to help raise the quality of “coordinated, comprehensive services for infants and toddlers and children through age three.”

Some of the highlights include:

  • $1.4 billion in competitive grants for Early Head Start programs to partner with center-based or family child care programs, particularly those that receive federal support through CCDBG and agree to meet Early Head Start program performance standards.
  • Priority of grants given to applicants that create “strong” alignment with MIECHV, CCDBG, and state-funded programs to develop comprehensive birth-to-school services for families.
  • Early Head Start programs receiving grants under this initiative would enter into a “contractual relationship” with child care providers to:
    • Expand center-based or family child care programs through financial support.
    • Provide training, technical assistance, and support to provider to meet higher quality measures.
    • Blend funds with CCDBG to develop “high-quality child care, for a full-day” that meets the Early Head Start standards.

Children With Disabilities

The bill amends the Individuals with Disabilities Act by increasing funding for infants and toddlers with disabilities and preschool grants for children with disabilities.

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program

The legislation would provide a “Sense of the Senate” and a “Sense of the House of the Representatives” that the MIECHV program has shown significant progress in the improving the development of children from low-income families.  A “Sense of the Congress (or of each chamber)” is simply the formal expression of opinion about subjects of current national interest.  In other words, while the rest of the legislation would develop, implement, or expand existing programs, this section would clarify the belief of the respective chambers that the MIECHV program has seen significant success in its work and that the chambers believe that Congress should continue to provide the resources necessary for the program.

MIECHV is currently funded through March 31, 2017.

Click here to read more about the legislation.

Big Week for Early Education

Originally posted on jaynicholsccaoa:

On April 16th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law that oversees the nation’s K-12 policy.

During the three-day consideration of the bill, the HELP Committee debated and adopted over 20 amendments, including one sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Committee, Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Mark Kirk (R-IL), that authorizes a new early education grant to states to improve early childhood education coordination, quality, and access, and would target resources for low- and moderate-income families. In addition, the Senate bill creates a new literacy program with a set-aside for early learning, 3and clarifies existing use of early education funds under Title I.

The Senate is expected to consider this legislation later this spring or during the summer.

Also, on April 14th, the Senate…

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USDA Comment Period for Child and Adult Care Food Program Deadline April 15th

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently reviewing proposed rule updates to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The CACFP is a federal program serving more than 3 million children in child care, Head Start and after school programs across the country. USDA hopes to update the CACFP program to be consistent with the national school lunch program, WIC and other food assistance programs administered by the agency.

With more science and academic reports explaining the benefits of healthy diets for children, USDA has decided to review proposed meal patterns to include a variety of fruits and vegetables. The proposed rules would update the current meal standards to reflect nutritious guidelines and menu items for participants.

As care providers, educators and community leaders, we encourage you to get involved by sharing your comments regarding the proposed rule. The science is clear, healthy nutritious meals directly impact children’s ability to learn, cognitive development, physical development, emotions and social skills.

A brief overview of the proposed rule is as follow:

  • Fat free flavored milk only
  • Disallow onsite frying
  • Breakfast cereals be allowed to conform to the WIC requirements
  • Onsite water
  • Codified family style meal service
  • Technical Assistance for providers and CACFP compliance

Get involved today by sharing your comments, support or recommendations with USDA before the April 15th comment period deadline.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs like USDA’s Food Nutrition Service (FNS) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans. Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 


House Passes Bipartisan Measure to Extend Health Insurance and Home Visiting Programs for Children

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that would extend child care and early child development programs that support millions of families.

The extension of these programs was included in the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,” (H.R. 2), which is legislation aimed at ending the sustainable growth rate, also known as the “doc-fix,” used for calculating doctor’s payments for Medicare.

H.R. 2 includes a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance coverage to nearly 8 million low-income children. Funding for CHIP was scheduled to expire this September if Congress did not act, which would have put many children at considerable risk of losing health care coverage. In addition to the extension of funding, H.R. 2 would also raise the Federal match to CHIP by 23% on October 1, 2015.175517670

H.R. 2 also includes a two-year extension ($400 million annually) for the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. MIECHV is a Federal-state partnership that provides critical support for pregnant women and families, as well as helps new, low-income parents access resources to help their children develop physically, socially, and emotionally to prepare them for kindergarten.

Congress will be in recess for the next two weeks. President Obama supports H.R. 2 and the Senate is expected to address the bill when it returns on April 13, 2015. Final passage is not certain but it’s likely, and since the current “doc-fix” Medicare cuts expire on March 31, the Senate will need to move quickly when it reconvenes.

The New Congress Releases its Budget Proposals

2016_budget_headerEarlier this week, the House and Senate Budget Committees approved their FY 2016 budget resolutions, and both proposed very deep cuts for many non-defense programs over the next ten years, including ones that millions of children and families depend on.

A congressional budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the appropriations process, which is expected to begin later this spring. The resolution includes various proposals on taxes, and both mandatory and discretionary spending, and offers projections and forecasts beyond the upcoming fiscal year (known as “out years”). The President does not sign a budget resolution, and while a completed resolution technically binds Congress, it’s not a law.

The House resolution, which was authored by Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), proposes to slash spending by $5.5 trillion over 10 years, while the Senate Budget Committee Chair, Mike Enzi (R-WY), included a $4.5 trillion reduction in his proposal.

Although not final, the House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Senate would eliminate $137 billion in its proposal. Additionally, both the House and Senate budgets would convert SNAP to a block grant, where states would receive a fixed amount of funding every year for nutritional assistance needs, which would lead to a significant number of families losing benefits.

Both resolutions also repeal the Affordable Care Act and propose massive cuts to Medicaid, which could result in millions of children and families losing access to quality health insurance.

While both proposals have limited specifics at this time, the drastic cuts to domestic spending could significantly harm crucial child care and early education programs.

Both resolutions are expected to be voted on next week, followed by a possible House-Senate conference agreement by April 15th. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) intends to offer an amendment to the Senate budget resolution protecting early education programs on the Senate floor. We will make sure to provide details throughout the process.

President Obama Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal

On February 2, 2015, President Barack Obama released his budget blueprint for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2016.  Following on commitments announced during the recent State of the Union, President Obama’s budget proposal includes new initiatives and funding proposals designed to improve “access to high-quality child care and early education.”

During the State of the Union and in the following days, President Obama outlined some of his proposals that would be included in his upcoming budget proposal.  Expanding access to quality, child care and finding solutions to make it more affordable for families nationwide were consistent themes throughout both speeches on ways to improve middle-class economics.

Every year, the President submits a budget blueprint to Congress outlining their annual spending priorities.  After the budget is submitted, Congress follows by, if agreed upon, proposing and passing their budget resolutions.  If Congress can reconcile a budget resolution between the two Chambers, the appropriators in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are then required to pass 12 Appropriations (spending) bills annually funding the government through the current and/or next fiscal year, using the budget resolution as a guideline.

With the release of the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget, the White House proposes a landmark investment in child care and other early childhood programs.

What’s included in the President’s Budget Proposal for Child Care and Early Childhood Programs: Continue reading

BREAKING: President Obama Announces Landmark Child Care Proposal

Fresh off the State of the Union, President Obama announced a landmark proposal to help all working families with young children afford child care.

The full Fact Sheet from the White House on the new child care proposal is copied below:

FACT SHEET: Helping All Working Families with Young Children Afford Child Care

“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

– President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

Helping working Americans meet the needs of their jobs and their families is a key part of the President’s plan to bolster and expand the middle class. Access to high-quality child care and early education not only promotes a child’s development, but it also helps support parents who are struggling to balance work and family obligations. A safe, nurturing environment that enriches children’s development is critical to working families and is one of the best investments we can make in our economy. Yet today, a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state tuition at most colleges – putting a significant strain on parents.

Ensuring that children have access to high quality and affordable early childhood programs can help children prepare for school and succeed in later life while strengthening parents’ ability to go to work, advance their career, and increase their earning potential. Research shows that money spent on young children is an effective investment, yielding benefits immediately to parents and for many decades to come for the children. For example, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors’ report on the Economics of Early Childhood indicate that investments in high-quality early education generate economic returns of over  $8 for every $1 spent.

Today, President Obama outlined his plan to make affordable, quality child care available to every working and middle-class family with young children. His plan includes:

  • Making a landmark investment in the Child Care and Development Fund that helps every eligible family with young children afford high-quality child care.
  • Tripling the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 per young child.
  • Creating a new innovation fund to help states design programs that better serve families that face unique challenges in finding quality care, such as those in rural areas or working non-traditional hours.

Two years ago, the President called for a continuum of high-quality early learning for America’s children – including support for children and their parents beginning prenatally with evidence-based home visitation for young children and new and expecting parents and continuing through high-quality preschool for America’s 4-year olds. Over the past two years, the federal government, states, philanthropists, and business leaders have invested nearly $3 billion in high-quality preschool and early education. Today’s announcement builds on these continuing efforts to make high-quality early education and child care available for all. These investments to expand and strengthen child care and early education programs complement the Administration’s other efforts to help working families, including offering workers the opportunity to earn paid sick and family leave, a higher minimum wage, and equal pay for women.

To read more about the proposal, check out the full fact sheet at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/21/fact-sheet-helping-all-working-families-young-children-afford-child-care

 

 

Quality, Affordable Child Care Highlighted in President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union

Last night, President Barack Obama made child care a front and center issue in his State of the Union address. The need for quality child care was the first issue mentioned by the President in addressing ways to move America forward.

Our most recently released Parents and the High Cost of Child Care Report reveals that working families continue to grapple with astronomical child care costs and lack of quality options ( http://usa.childcareaware.org/costofcare).

Here’s the excerpt from the President’s remarks on child care quality and affordability:

“Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing – those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First – middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority – so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.”

Prior to the speech last night some of the proposals were released in greater detail, including the proposal around the child care tax credit.  To read more about the proposal, check out our Policy Blog on it here: http://policyblog.usa.childcareaware.org/2015/01/20/president-to-announce-new-initiatives-to-make-child-care-more-affordable-in-tonights-state-of-the-union/

Child Care Costs Front and Center at SOTU

When President Obama discussed Rebekah and her family and their difficulty in affording child care, shared with many Americans, he mentioned an issue that affects families regardless of geography or income.

What we know is that child care is a major expense in family budgets, often exceeding the cost of housing, college tuition, food, and transportation.  Unreliable child care also hurts business.  Lack of child care options lead to employee absences, costing businesses $3 billion annually in the US.

In 2013, in 30 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual average cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.

In Minnesota, which President Obama specifically cited child care costs in comparison to both mortgage and tuition, the cost of child care for an infant in a child care center averaged almost $14,000 per year, for a 4-year old it averaged over $10,000, and $10,468 for average tuition and fees at a public college*  For Rebekah and Minnesotans alike, there is a 33.7% difference between cost of college and cost for infant center-based care.

This past year has seen unprecedented steps forward toward providing a safe, quality setting for our children, with a bi-partisan, bi-cameral child care bill becoming law.  While we’re pushing forward on quality, we must not ignore that families across the country, regardless of geography or income, struggle to pay for child care so that they can go to work.

Quality, affordable child care provides critical support to our nation’s workforce and is one of the earliest learning settings our children will enter.

President to Announce New Initiatives to Make Child Care More Affordable in Tonight’s State of the Union

Tonight, January 20, 2015 at 9PM Eastern, President Barack Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union address.  President Obama’s State of the Union address will focus on middle-class economics and provide some new proposals to help families offset the burden of child care costs.

Some of the proposals included in the upcoming State of the Union have been released prior to the speech, including a proposal around the child care tax credit.  From the President’s fact sheet on the proposal:

“Making Child Care, Education, and Retirement Tax Benefits Work for Middle-Class Families

Simplifying and Expanding Child Care Tax Benefits

With the cost of infant and toddler care rivaling the cost of college in many states, the average child care tax benefit of $550 falls well short of what is needed to provide meaningful help to working families. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and child care flexible spending accounts are also unnecessarily complex, often requiring significant paperwork and advanced planning for families to receive the full benefits.

The President’s tax proposal would streamline child care tax benefits and triple the maximum child care credit for middle class families with young children, increasing it to $3,000 per child. The President’s child care tax proposals would benefit 5.1 million families, helping them cover child care costs for 6.7 million children(including 3.5 million children under 5), through the following reforms:

  • Triple the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under 5, increasing it to $3,000 per child. Families with young children face the highest child care costs. Under the President’s proposal, they could claim a 50 percent credit for up to $6,000 of expenses per child under 5 – covering up to half the cost of child care for preschool age children.
  • Make the full credit available to most middle-class families. Under current law, almost no families qualify for the maximum CDCTC. The President’s proposal would make the maximum credit – for young children, older children, and elderly or disabled dependents – available to families with incomes up to $120,000, meaning that most middle-class families could easily determine how much help they can get.
  • Eliminate complex child care flexible spending accounts and reinvest the savings in the improved CDCTC.The President’s proposal would replace the current system of complex and duplicative incentives with one generous and simple child care tax benefit. 

The President’s child care tax proposal will complement major new investments in the President’s Budget to improve child care quality, access, and affordability for working families.”

The full fact sheet can be found here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/17/fact-sheet-simpler-fairer-tax-code-responsibly-invests-middle-class-fami

ACF Announces Preliminary Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grantees

From the Department of Health and Human Services:photosb

“HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) today announced preliminary winners for its Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grants to improve the quality of existing child care programs and expand access to high-quality care for infants and toddlers.

Thus far, 234 preliminary selected grant applicants in 49 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands will receive over $435 million in funding to help offer care and services to ensure that infants and toddlers have access to Early Head Start services in their communities.”

To read the release from the Administration for Children and Families, click here: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/media/press/new-hhs-grants-increase-improve-learning-opportunities-for-young-children

To see the full list of preliminary EHS-CC grantees, click here: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd/early-learning/ehs-cc-partnerships/grant-awardees