Federal Legislative Update – August 9, 2011

Bi-Partisan Budget Deal Set for Vote in September
A bi-partisan budget deal is currently in place and will be voted on when Congress returns after Labor Day. The deal allows Congress to avoid another budget shutdown debate prior to the election in November. While some conservatives are disappointed House and Senate leaders intend to vote on continuing resolution that will flat fund all programs including Head Start well into the next year. Both parties believe that they will get a better deal after the election (if their candidate wins) and saw no benefit in getting into a protracted budget fight right now. Link to Washington Post Story.

Across the Board Cuts: 1,356 Head Start Children in WA to Be Cut in January

If nothing changes between now and January 2013 all discretionary programs will take a 7.8% cut. In Washington State 1,356 children would be dropped from the program. Check out our chart (pdf available here) to see how your program might be impacted.  Efforts are underway to inform the public and key stakeholders about how damaging these cuts would be and to instead push for a more balanced approach which would combine some cuts with new revenue.  Recently, Politico ran a great story about the potential impact of the cuts that will go into effect and how Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has taken the lead in drawing attention to the issue.

Here’s how Washington would be affected overall:

Total children cut Region X Head Start/Early HS: 963
Total children cut AI/AN (Tribes): 111
Total children cut Migrant/Seasonal Head Start: 282
Total Children Cut ALL PROGRAMS WA: 1356

Click here for a detailed list of how each Washington program could be affected.

New Head Start Impact Study to Be Released in September
It looks like the next set of data from the Head Start impact study will be released in September or October at the very latest. This time it will look at whether the gains made to Head Start last through 3rd grade. As you might recall the previous results of the impact study found that the benefits of Head Start seemed to fade out after 1st grade. We are likely to see similar results. WSA will be sending out some additional information about the impact study and what it all means in the next few weeks. While there have numerous positive studies proving Head Start’s effectiveness both in the short and long term, critics of Head Start have focused on this one study as being the gold standard despite some real problems with the methodology and the fact that Head Start programming has greatly improved since this cohort went through the program 10 years ago in 2002.

Child Care Legislation Moving in Senate
The Senate HELP Committee has been hard at work putting together a draft bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant.  While the details of the legislation are not known it is likely to contain increases in quality funding, tighter criminal background check, and more professional development requirements.  Senator Murray has been particularly interested in finding way to improve services for homeless children and their families.  To lay the groundwork for potential policy changes a hearing was held last week in the committee. You can watch it here.

First Five Years Forum Highlights Early Education
The First Five Years Fund partnered with National Journal to put together an excellent forum on early education.  Head Start advocates should watch the first panel in particular in which both speakers agree that the program is well designed but also in need of reform. You can watch the full presentation http://www.ffyf.org/