Bi-Partisan Budget Deal Passes Out of House, Moves to Senate

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Last night, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal 332-94, reducing the likelihood of another government shutdown and setting the stage for Senate action, expected next week.  The agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sets discretionary spending for two years and replaces a second round of sequester cuts slated to take effect in January.

Non-defense discretionary spending, which has already been reduced to $470 billion, will be adjusted back upwards, to $491.7 billion in 2014 and then $492.4 in 2015 – essentially to the same levels as were in place in 2008.  The agreement gives an important nod to several of our key priorities by creating three “deficit- neutral reserve funds”: one for Pre-Kindergarten, one for Child Care and one for Home Visiting.  These “reserve funds” allow the authorizing committees of the House and Senate to approve funding for CCDBG, home visiting, and the new Strong Start for America’s Children legislation so long as those programs are deficit neutral, in other words, paid for thru cuts in other programs or revenues generated in some way.

This is an important and positive step for children and families, lessening the impact of the draconian sequestration cuts but a long way from securing the commitment needed to create a system of high quality early care and education.

House Democrats who, all but 32, supported the bill, expressed concern that the budget deal did not extend unemployment benefits for over one million families whose benefits are expected to run out before the end of the year.  All in all, for many this was a “hold your nose and vote yes vote”.  Neither side can claim 100 percent victory, neither side can claim 100 percent defeat.  It represents a true Washington compromise which was, until recently, common practice but becoming increasingly elusive due to partisan wrangling.

If the Senate approves the Budget as expected next week, all eyes will turn to the appropriations committees where, by January 15th the funding will need to be approved and actually allocated to various subcommittees and specific programs such as CCDBG, Head Start, and Home Visiting.  Be assured that Child Care Aware will stay on top of these issues, letting you know when it will be important to raise your voice to ensure attention to and support for our priorities.

 

 

Retired Military Leaders Support Comprehensive Early Learning Agenda

BMfBk3PCEAAWoTaWe’re not alone in our pursuit for quality child care and early learning policies.

“Expanding access to quality pre-k is the smartest thing we can do, right now, to get more children on track for academic success,” said General Victor E. “Gene” Renuart, Jr., USAF-Ret.

Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit organization made up more than 350 retired military senior officers who are asking state and federal lawmakers to create policies that will help youth prepare for employment and military service, released a report showing how high-quality early learning programs could lead to 2 million more high school graduates and $150 billion in economic benefits.  With 75% of all young Americans ineligible to join the military, largely as a result of not having a high school diploma or being able to score high enough on the military’s entrance exam to be allowed to serve, Mission: Readiness recognizes the economic and national security benefits of high-quality early learning settings.

Members of Mission: Readiness, along with Mississippi State Senator Bryce Wiggins (R-MS, 52nd District) spoke today at a press conference for the release of the national report, A Commitment to Pre-Kindergarten is a Commitment to National Security, which focuses largely on how high-quality early childhood education saves billions while strengthening our military and our nation.    “It’s important to note that this truly is a bipartisan issue that gets support from all sectors of society,” said Senator Brice Wiggins, who was the lead sponsor of legislation recently signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to create state-funded pre-K for the first time in the state’s history. “We made a bold and budget-wise commitment to quality pre-K for the simple reason that it’s the one of the best things we can do to give our kids the foundation they need for academic success and meet the future needs of our employers as well.”

Nick Vucic, Monique Rizer and Lester Asamoah, represented Child Care Aware of America at the Washington, DC event.

Events from Mission: Readiness took place simultaneously today in seven other states, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada and Ohio.

Additional Resources

Mission Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids
Fact Sheet: President’s Proposed Budget for Early Learning
Child Care Aware of America Core Policy Issues Page

Join Senator Mikulski — Any Budget Deal Should Put Children First!

Congressional leaders are currently negotiating a new budget framework to avoid the fiscal cliff (i.e, the across-the-board cuts scheduled to occur on January 2 combined with the expiration of a number of tax breaks scheduled to expire later this month).  

At issue are efforts to avoid an across-the-board cut that is scheduled to occur as a result of Congress’ past failure to reduce the deficit in line with targets set up in a deficit reduction deal passed more than a year ago.  Another issue that is complicating the matter is that a number of previously passed tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the month. This means that everyone’s taxes will rise if Congress takes no action.

The Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would extend the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest in this country – those individuals who earn over $200,000 and families who earn over $250,000.  Estimates are that 98 percent of Americans earn under those thresholds and would not be affected.

It is unclear what will happen.  Will there be a new budget deal or framework under which a budget bill/deficit reduction bill is developed?  Or, will the country go over the fiscal cliff – an across-the-board budget cut will occur and everyone’s taxes will rise?

The budget framework under negotiation is important because it will provide a roadmap for Congressional priorities over the next year and over the next decade.  Senator Mikulski (D-MD) is circulating a children’s budget letter for other Senators to sign, which she intends to send to the Congressional leadership. The Mikulski children’s budget letter urges the negotiators to put children first – as part of the underlying framework, not merely an after-thought once the framework has been decided. As Senator Mikulski says, “It is time to both protect and invest in those who are the most vulnerable in our country – not leave them to chance.”

According to data from 2011:

  • One in five children – 16 million – in the United States live in poverty, including one in four children under age 5. Half of children under age 6 in the U.S. live in low-income families.
  •  More than 8.5 million children in the U.S. lived in food insecure households.
  •  Children are not getting the early learning they need to succeed in school. Only 29 percent of eligible 3-5 year old children in the U.S. are enrolled in Head Start. Just 4.5 percent of eligible children are enrolled in Early Head Start. Only one in six eligible children receive a child care subsidy, but the quality of care many of those children are in (as well as the care children not receiving a subsidy are in) is relatively poor.
  • Half of U.S. 4th grade students eligible for free or reduced price lunch fail to read at grade level.
  • 40 percent of U.S. families with a substantiated child abuse report received no services in 2010.
  • More than 1,500 children in the U.S. died due to abuse and neglect (47.7 percent were children under the age of one).
  • Fifteen years after the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, 10 percent of children in the U.S. still do not have health insurance.

We think Senator Mikulski is right.  In any budget framework that is agreed to, children ought to come first.  Children are the future of our country. To see a copy of Senator Mikulski’s children’s budget letter that is circulating in the Senate, click here.

It’s time for Congress to make children a priority.  Please contact your Senators today and urge them to sign on to Senator Mikulski’s children’s budget letter.  The deadline is Wednesday, December 12, C.O.B.  The bottom line? No bad budget deal for kids!  The final budgetary framework will be a reflection of our nation’s priorities – join Senator Mikulski in urging budget negotiators to put children first!

Click here to visit our action center to send an email to your Senators. The deadline for signing Senator Mikulski’s children’s budget letter is Wednesday evening (December 12), so don’t wait!