Early childhood education would be added to the next Race to the Top competition if Congress passes the federal budget bill for fiscal year 2011 that has emerged from last week’s negotiations to avoid a shutdown.
Legislative language from the Early Learning Challenge Fund – a competitive grant program proposed in 2009 and eager awaited by early childhood advocates – has been inserted into the bill. If passed, states that want to win ‘Race to the Top’ grants would have to show that they are making strides in building early learning systems and increasing the number of children in high-quality settings.
The inclusion of early childhood within the competitive Race to the Top is just one way that early education appears to have avoided the budget ax – at least so far. The proposed budget includes $700 million for Race to the Top, $7.5 billion for Head Start, $2.2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, $30 million for Promise Neighborhoods and $150 million for the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund. Title I funding will remain at the fiscal year 2010 level of $14.5 billion.
The full text of the proposal, called the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, was introduced today and is expected to be voted on by both chambers later this week, before Thursday, April 14, the expiration date for last Friday’s continuing resolution.(For those of you who are just getting up to speed: Just before midnight on Friday, April 8, a deal was struck, allowing government operations to continue through April 14 and giving Congress a few more days to hash out the details of the deal.)
The new Race to the Top proposal says that for states to qualify for funds they will need to show what they are already doing or plan to:
- Increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs;
- Design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services; and
- Ensure that any use of assessments is consistent with the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood. (One key report is Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How)
This early learning provision is being proposed as a fifth “assurance” to be added to the “four assurances” toward education reform that were written into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. To win Race to the Top grants in the previous round, states had to show that they could meet those four assurances – effective teachers, high-quality standards and assessments, data to support instruction and plans to turnaround low-performing schools.
While the early learning requirements aren’t nearly as detailed as what was included in the latest iteration of the proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund, the inclusion of early education as a fifth assurance does mean that states will have to begin thinking about how to improve access to and the quality of early education programs to be competitive for Race to the Top grants. It is possible that in some states this would simply lead to small pilot program initiatives that will dissolve once funding is gone.
But Early Ed Watch is hopeful this as an opportunity for states to think about how to better align early learning programs and the early grades of elementary school, perhaps spurring PreK-3rd efforts that explore joint professional development for and collaboration between preschool and early grade teachers, quality professional development for principals, linkages between early childhood and K-12 data systems, full-day kindergarten, and the alignment of developmentally appropriate curriculum and standards from PreK-3rd grade.
On the Head Start and childcare fronts, the proposed budget includes a $340 million increase and $100 million increase for the Child Care Development Block Grant.
The proposal does include a number of cuts to programs in the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. For example, the bill eliminates fiscal year 2011 funding for Striving Readers, which isn’t surprising given that the program had already been cut in a previous stopgap funding measure. But fiscal year 2010 funding would remain intact.
Provided the budget bill passes, other programs that will not receive funding in fiscal year 2011 include: Leveraging Education Assistance Partnership (LEAP), Education Technology State Grants, Javits gifted and talented education, grants for Gulf Coast schools, Smaller Learning Communities, and B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships, and national earmarks such as Teach for America (TFA). Groups like TFA, however, would be able to compete for funding under the Teacher Quality State Grants program.
Here is the breakdown on some key programs:
Enacted FY 2010
FY11 President’s Request
House Subcomm. FY 2011
Senate Comm. FY 2011
Proposed full-year Continuing Appropriations Act FY 2011
(Figures in $ billions)
Head Start (including Early Head Start)
Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)
IDEA Grants to States
Race to the Top
Early Learning Challenge Fund
* The House Subcommittee proposed funding listing the total amount for IDEA as “special education.” It did not break down levels for specific programs under IDEA. The total amount for special education was $ 12.99 billion.
**In the proposed Full-year Continuing Appropriations Act, funding remains at fiscal year 2010 levels.
*** Early Education is included as an assurance in Race to the Top.
Note: IDEA Infants & Families and IDEA preschool funding is left off because we did not have complete information for these subprograms. See the footnote on IDEA above.
Read our sister blog Ed Money Watch for more details on other education programs. Ed Week’s Politics K-12 blog has detailed coverage as well. Here are summaries of what's included in the budget bill from the House and Senate appropriations committees. And to read our continuing coverage on the fiscal year 2011 budget process, see our budget page or read the posts listed below: