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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Increases in FY2013 Funding for Early Education

Published:  June 20, 2012

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to approve a fiscal year 2013 appropriations package for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, the key agencies that fund early education programs.

Though a final budget is still a long ways off, the bill does give some insights into the Senate negotiators’ starting point. On the House side, legislators have only provided broad outlines for cutting and spending, with few details on early education programs (the House budget proposal released in March would eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, which in some states helps to pay for child care).

The Senate committee proposed to slightly increase the Department of Education budget overall – up from $68.1 billion in the current fiscal year to $68.5 billion in fiscal year 2013. The committee also increased funding levels for several early childhood programs housed in the Department of Health and Human Services.

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On an individual program basis, the bill proposes $100 million increases for both Title I grants to school districts for economically disadvantaged students and IDEA Part B special education grants to states. Meanwhile, IDEA Part C grants for infants and toddlers saw a $20 million increase over 2012 levels, up to $462.7 million, and IDEA preschool grants were funded at 2012 totals ($372.6 million). The Senate committee’s plan also bumps up funding for Promise Neighborhoods by $20 million, up from $59.9 million in fiscal year 2012 to $80 million in 2013, with more of the funds shifted from planning to implementation grants.

Although the bill holds funding constant for School Improvement Grants – at $533.6 million – the committee approved a new (fifth) turnaround strategy that schools enrolled in the program may use. Under the Senate’s plan, schools would be allowed to use evidence-based strategies for whole-school reform plans.

The Striving Readers program, which provides funds for literacy programs for students from birth through 12th grade, would see constant fiscal year 2012 funding levels next year – nearly $160 million. As is the case for the current Striving Readers program, 15 percent of funds would be reserved for children through age 5, and another 40 percent for kindergarten through fifth grade students. The president’s 2013 budget request zeroed out funding for the program as part of a proposed consolidation of literacy programs. (See this analysis of President Obama’s budget for more details.)

The Investing in Innovation program would receive level funding in 2013 at just under $150 million.  As much as 30 percent of that would be set aside for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education (ARPA-ED), a Department of Defense-inspired research and development program. Race to the Top, meanwhile, would increase slightly (by about a half a percent) to $549.3 million. Some unidentified amount of that funding would be used for another round of the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge.

Within the Department of HHS, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) would receive a $160 million increase over fiscal year 2012 levels from the Senate committee, for a total of $2.4 billion. The committee has targeted $90 million of that increase for improvement of the early childhood workforce; and of the total appropriation, sets aside nearly $107 million for improving quality of child care settings for infants and toddlers. Head Start would also receive an increase; $8.04 billion would be allocated to the program, up from $7.98 billion in fiscal year 2012.

This is just a step in what will likely be a long process toward a final budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins on October 1, 2012. Given election year politics, it seems unlikely that budgeting will proceed much beyond this step for several months, until after the November elections.

Check back with Early Ed Watch for more details throughout the year and don’t miss our special page with continuing coverage of federal spending bills that affect early education. To read more about K-12 funding in the bill, check out this post from our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

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