Two Congressional champions of early childhood investments submitted a letter to colleagues in charge of federal appropriations yesterday, urging them to include the Early Learning Challenge Fund in the federal spending bill for fiscal year 2011. The letter included signatures from 110 members of Congress, including six Republicans.
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) are the top signatories. They sent the letter to Rep. David Obey (D-WI), Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), who lead the House Committee on Appropriations.
“As we work to cut our deficit, investing in high-quality early learning can make a major impact on our nation’s long-term fiscal health,” the letter says. “The Early Learning Challenge Fund will leverage investments from state and local governments, philanthropy, and the private sector, with a focus on quality and alignment of infrastructure between and among these programs.”
The Challenge Fund has been a major source of dashed hopes this year. It passed the House as part of a student-aid reform bill last fall but was then dropped in March when the Senate took up the student-aid bill as part of the health care reform legislation. (Go here for more details on what happened.)
A Senate appropriations subcommittee did, however, include a much-scaled down version in its spending bill for fiscal year 2011. It is not included in the corresponding House subcommittee’s proposal. (See this post for a comparison of proposed funding levels for FY2011.)
Alyson Klein wrote about the letter in EdWeek’s Politics K-12 Blog yesterday afternoon, noting that it may be the “last, best hope for a federal investment in early childhood for a long, long time.”
The full text of the letter is here on Rep. Hirono’s website.