Final FY12 Budget: The Highlights for Early Education

12.19.2011 | Early Ed Watch | Clare McCann

The Senate voted on Saturday morning to pass the omnibus year-end spending bill, passed Friday by the House, and the result is good for early education.

Although the bill provides less funding for discretionary programs overall – for the second consecutive year – many education programs will actually see a boost. The table shows funding levels for some Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services programs that affect young children from birth through third grade.

Head Start will receive an additional $400 million, upping the program’s spending to $7.98 billion in 2012 and preserving the slots opened through an expansion of the program in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Both IDEA Part C (Early Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers) and the Child Care Development Block Grant programs will see a lift in funding, with increases of $5 million and $60 million, respectively. (The Child Care Entitlement to States, the portion of the Child Care and Development Fund provided through mandatory spending, will supply another $2.9 billion.) Meanwhile, IDEA Preschool grants will remain constant at fiscal year 2011 levels.

Title I, Part A grants are also increased by $60 million, to be funded at $14.5 billion. A number of programs zeroed out in the House Republicans’ draft appropriations bill are preserved, albeit at lower levels in some cases. Race to the Top is decreased from FY11 levels of $700 million to $550 million, and those funds will now be available to local educational agencies in addition to states. The Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund remains steady at fiscal year 2011 levels, as does the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program and Ready-to-Learn TV, which funds research on and the development of educational television and software programs.

Promise Neighborhoods saw a large increase in funding, given that the House Appropriations Committee wanted to defund the program entirely. It received an appropriation double fiscal year 2011 levels – $60 million – although it still falls well short of the president’s fiscal year 2012 request of $150 million, which was intended to enable programs to expand beyond the planning stage. TheMaternal Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program will still receive mandatory funding of $350 million, as set forth in the healthcare reform law last year.

And one program defunded in 2011 was restored this year. Striving Readers, a competitive grant program to improve literacy in children from birth through 12th grade, received $160 million. The Administration had wanted its funding to be part of a newly-titled and consolidated division within the Department of Education, while the the House Appropriations Committee had not included funding for it in its proposals.

All in all, early education advocates can find a lot to cheer in this budget, particularly given the challenging fiscal climate in which Congress finds itself. And Congress has now provided appropriations for all federal programs through September 30, 2012, so we will have a slight reprieve from funding debates and threats of government shutdown until that date. The president releases his fiscal year 2013 budget request in early February.

For more information on education funding in the bill, check out this post from our sister blog Ed Money Watch. And for background on the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process, click here.

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