Early education was a clear winner in the $1 trillion Congressional budget deal announced late Monday night. Just over $1 billion was allocated to fund educational programs for the nation's littlest children in the omnibus bill, that will fund federal government operations through October - $612 million above pre-sequestration levels.
“The political will demonstrated by members of Congress tonight is a positive indicator of where early childhood is headed," Kris Perry, Executive Director of national nonprofit, the First Five Fund, said in a written statement. "We expect big things ahead, and will celebrate this milestone.”
Locally, the extra cash could mean as many as 500 Head Start seats restored in Los Angeles County, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Education's Head Start division director, Keesha Woods.
Another benefit: case loads for Early Head Start workers - who were forced to take on more families and spend less time with each after sequestration cuts - should go back down. She also expects to be able to reimburse staff for training and development again - one benefit that had been cut with sequestration.
Woods credits intensive parent activism locally and nationwide with this "phenomenal" decision.
Specifically, the budget deal announced Monday contains the following early education allotments:
· An increase of $1.025 billion in Head Start funding - a nearly 14 percent increase.
· $500 million of the Head Start funding increase will be invested in Early Head Start.
· $250 million under Race to the Top for competitive grants to develop, expand or enhance locally grown state preschool programs
The house and senate are expected to pass the bill in the coming days.
Early education advocates see this budget deal as a big win in the campaign for universal preschool.