The 2016 House and Senate Spending Bills could cause upwards of 100,000 children from low and middle-income families to lose access to quality preschools, claims the US Department of Education.
Despite evidence supporting the importance of early learning in childhood, House and Senate committees have recently commissioned spending bills that include large cuts to programs in a number of areas, including health care, public health and safety, job training, and education. Preschool Development Grants, a program that is currently working to boost the high-quality preschool programs available in over 200 low-income communities throughout 18 states, would be completely cut by both bills.
“Congress is moving forward with a plan that would take critical early learning opportunities from the children who need it the most – delaying their learning by a year and missing an opportunity to chip away at the educational gaps that exist for children from low- and moderate income families. These children and their families cannot afford to wait for Washington to decide whether or not they get the right start for success,” Said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
According to data from the US Department of Education, taking funding away from states in need during the last two years of the grants would leave almost 43,000 children in underfunded preschool programs as well as put an end to plans to serve another 60,000 children.
Meanwhile, the President’s Budget suggests a separate course of action which could expand the program to 26-32 additional applicants, including states, the Bureau of Indian Education, tribal educational agencies, territories, and the Outlying Areas. An additional 350,000 children would gain access to high-quality preschool programs over the next four years.
If funding for this program is taken away, the DOE reports that the 18 states that are currently participating in programs funded by such grants would lose access to a portion of over $640 million pledged in state and local funding. The Preschool Development Grant programs require “matching funds” to be made by additional State and local financial commitments, which would be lost if the grants come to an end.
Access to high-quality preschool programs offers children the ability to succeed later in life, the Department says, because it is the period where important developments in reasoning, language acquisition, and problem solving occur. The developmental window is of particular importance for children from low-income families, as they typically start kindergarten 12 to 14 months developmentally behind their peers in the areas of pre-reading and language skills.