Ellyana Benitez, left, and Briana Melgar brush their teeth after lunch. The program the children attend, Options in Monrovia, was one of the first to feel the sequestration cuts losing the afternoon class.
If passed, the bi-partisan federal budget deal will bring some much needed funding back to nation's youngest residents. It could fully restore preschool funding lost to sequestration.
Funding cuts reduced Head Start programs by 57,000 seats nationwide. California's share was 5,600 lost slots. The Congressional compromise, announced this week, would partially - and possibly even fully - restore the cuts. Appropriations committees are working out the spending details now.
"As far as we can tell, Head Start will be treated proportionate to other domestic discretionary programs," and will result in at least a "partial restoration of sequester cuts," said Rick Mockler, Executive Director of the California Head Start Association.
Advocates of early childhood education said the damage caused by the cuts has been severe.
"While the deal addresses some future impacts of sequestration on Head Start, it can’t do anything to undo the damage to the 57,000 young children who were deprived of the opportunity to attend a Head Start program due to sequestration," said Kris Perry, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.
California kids also stand to gain if state Democrats' blueprint for next year's spending is enacted. It included a big push to expand state preschool and Transitional Kindergarten - a new grade for kids who are just a few months too young to enter traditional Kindergarten. It also prioritizes early care programs for children under 4.
After years of cuts and stagnant spending on early childhood education, advocates are cheering the proposal, even though it's got a long way to go before becoming reality.
"We are extremely encouraged," said Catherine Atkin, President of the advocacy group, Early Edge California. She called the blueprint "historic."