Early Ed Watch

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Key Questions about Early Ed in Obama's FY12 Budget

Published:  February 15, 2011
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Yesterday, the Federal Education Budget Project released an issue brief on key questions related to the President's budget request.

As it does every year, the education policy team here at New America has compiled a list of key questions prompted by the Obama administration's budget request, which was released yesterday. The questions are designed to heighten the quality of debate on federal education policy and spark conversations among policymakers, the media, stakeholder groups, and the public.

Here are our two questions that relate most directly to early education:

1) The president’s request for fiscal year 2012 proposes $350 million for an Early Learning Challenge Fund, a new competitive grant program designed to spur states to build stronger systems for early learning for children up to age 5. There is evidence that gains that children make in early learning programs are not always sustained through elementary school. Would this new program include any provisions to ensure that the gains children make in preschool programs are sustained and built upon, year by year, in kindergarten and the early grades?

2) The administration proposes to change the name of the existing $546 million School Improvement Grants program to the School Turnaround Grants program and to increase funding to $600 million in fiscal year 2012. It appears that the proposal makes no substantive changes to the old program’s structure with respect to early education. Given that the Department of Education has flexibility in designing the grant-making criteria, will the administration require grantees to include elements of a strong early education system – including full-day kindergarten – as part of the transformation of low-performing elementary schools?

In the midst of what looks to be one of the toughest budget seasons in recent memory, education policy analysts and the public surely have many other early ed questions on their minds as well. Let us know what you're wondering about. And don't miss yesterday's post that provides details on which programs are favored in Obama's budget request. (Hint: Early education programs fared quite well.)

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