President Obama. Photo: The White House
President Obama. Photo: The White House

President Obama has sent his budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 to Congress. It’s his final budget, and in it he calls for wise investments in early childhood programs.

A White House fact sheet says, “The Budget aims to ensure that children have access to high-quality learning starting at birth by:”

• “Expanding access to quality child care for working families.”

• “Cutting taxes for families paying for child care with a credit of up to $3,000 per child.”

• “Increasing the duration of Head Start programs, while maintaining access to Head Start.”

• “Supporting universal preschool.”

• “Investing in voluntary, evidence-based home visiting.” And,

• Investing “in early learning for children with disabilities.”

In a statement, Linda K. Smith, the deputy assistant secretary for Early Childhood Development for the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), says, “I wanted to let you know about all the important early learning actions happening at the federal level, that hopefully, will bring much needed resources to all the states.”

Smith points to key investments and budget increases, including:

• “$9.6 billion for Head Start, an increase of $433.6 million for FY2017.”

• “$645 million for Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership funding, an increase of $10 million for FY2017.”

• “$2.96 billion for discretionary funding under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), an increase of $200 million for FY2017.”

• “$6.58 billion for mandatory funding under CCDBG, an increase of $3.6 billion in FY2017 and $82 billion over the next 10 years.”

• “$350 million for Preschool Development Grants, which will provide a fourth year of continuation grants for the 18 states with Preschool Development Grants and provide $100 million for the newly authorized Preschool Development Grants under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.”

“Also today,” Smith adds, “Senator Casey and Representatives Crowley and Frankel introduced the Child C.A.R.E. Act, a bill that supports the President’s budget request to boost the quality of care for children under 4.”

Some children and families could also be helped by programs that recognize “the troubling increase in the number of families with children living in extreme poverty,” including a $2 billion initiative for Emergency Aid and Service Connection Grants, according to ACF’s website, which adds:

“We’re proposing that $10 million in Social Service Block Grant funds be used to for a pilot project to test if an adequate supply of diapers can improve maternal mental health and infant and child health among families that face significant difficulty in affording diapers.”

In a news release, Child Care Aware of America applauds the president’s ideas, saying, “We are grateful to the President and the Administration for continuing to make child care and early education a national priority.”

However, the organization warns that “due to the 2016 Presidential election, a final FY 2017 budget being signed into law is not likely until late December. It’s also possible that a continuing resolution may be enacted until the spring of 2017, leaving the new Administration and 115th Congress to pass a budget.”

For now, though, the president’s budget provides inspiring fiscal leadership.

As ACF’s Smith concludes:

“Strengthening the quality of child care for families with children under age 4 is not easy. We know that it costs more to provide higher quality than most parents can afford to pay. But, it is time to match what we know about the neuroscience, what we have learned about best practices based on the research, with the resources to make a difference – for families who want to access high quality care and for programs that want to operate high quality care.”