Early education advocates were thrilled at the $75 billion President Barack Obama proposed Tuesday to spend on their cause over the next 10 years - even though the budget is unlikely to pass as is.
Alex Morales, CEO of the Children’s Bureau of Southern California, said the president's proposed expansion - to $1.3 billion next year to implement universal preschool and expand other programs - would be a game changer for the poor families his organization serves.
“These are predominantly families living on one to two thousand dollars per month,” Morales said. “Having more resources, allowing the availability of quality childcare would be very meaningful in our neighborhoods.”
The President requested the same thing last year, to no avail.
“The preschool for all matching is still funded by the pretty unpopular tobacco tax increase,” said Clara McCann, of the New America Foundation. “There’s not a lot here that is going to make Republicans in the House change their mind about how they feel about it.”
Quick look at what the President proposes:
- $75 billion over 10 years for preschool for all low- and moderate-income families through state-federal partnerships.
- $650 million for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, with an additional $800 million requested from a separate fund that would require Congress to also pass additional spending cuts to offset this extra spending.
- Increase child care funding to allow more families subsidies to pay for high-quality child care. This funding would increase by $57 million on the discretionary side of the program, and $750 million on the mandatory side.
- Expand home visitation programs which serve low-income families: Home visiting was set to expire this year; instead, it would be extended for 10 years, totaling $15 billion over that period.
A Department of Education statement touted the President’s proposal as “one of the boldest efforts to expand educational opportunity in the last 50 years.”
Helen Blank at the National Women’s Law Center’s Child Care and Early Learning program said in a statement that the spending proposed “will put children on the path to success in school and in life and enable their parents to work and support their families.”
While the President's budget wends its way through Washington, legislators in Sacramento are weighing a similar expansion.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, introduced a bill earlier this year that would expand California's version of universal preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, to all 4-year-olds. That amounts to 350,000 additional children attending transitional kindergarten by 2019-2020.
It's estimated to cost $198 million in the first year. Supporters of the bill say it is a fraction of the state’s general fund surplus.
Steinberg proposes a five-year phase-in period, which would add 46,000 4-year-olds each year. At the moment, only those who narrowly missed the cutoff for Kindergarten are eligible for the program. The five-year cost to the state would be $990 million.
Governor Jerry Brown did not include money in his January budget proposal for the program expansion. Committee hearings on the bill, SB 837, begin in early April.