September 2011 U.S. Poverty Action

Protecting Low-income Children in Head Start and Child Care

Take Action! Call or Write Senators to Protect 2012 Funding for Early Childhood Development Services

Use the talking points below to generate additional letters, e-mails (you can also use our online e-mail action alert) and phone calls to Senate offices. To find contact information for congressional offices and the name of the early childhood aide, visit our Elected Officials page (http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/).

  1. Introduce yourself as a constituent and as a RESULTS volunteer. Tell them you are focused on the urgent need to protect children enrolled in Head Start and child care programs.
  2. Inform them these Head Start and child care enable low-income parents to access reliable child care while they work and provide at-risk children with the early learning experiences they need for success in school and life.
  3. Also tell them that society benefits from these programs through reduced need for special education and remediation, better health outcomes, reduced need for social services, lower criminal justice costs, and increased self-sufficiency and productivity among families.
  4. Share any direct experiences you have with Head Start and child care, either from a recent site visit or from your family’s participating in these programs. Demonstrate how these services have helped at-risk children in your community.
  5. Express your concern that the recent debt deal (the Budget Control Act) threatens these programs with budget cuts. Cuts to these services will not only deprive children of the proven benefits of quality early childhood education, but also cost jobs as staff are laid off and parents are forced to stop work because they have no affordable child care.
  6. Remind elected officials that Head Start and child care programs are smart investments for America’s future and should be strengthened, not cut. Ask your senators and representative to tell Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee (Labor-HHS) Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) or House Labor-HHS Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to protect Head Start and child care services.
  7. Specifically, they should urge these committee members to:
    • Allocate $8.1 billion total for Head Start/Early Head Start in FY 2012;
    • Allocate a $1.2 billion increase for the Child Care Development Block Grant in FY 2012.
  8. Thank them for their time and ask for a prompt response to your letter.

Where We Are Now: RESULTS 2011 Campaign to Protect Funding for Head Start and Child Care

RESULTS has spent most of 2011 working to protect funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). These programs have proven successful time and again at helping vulnerable children receive the foundation they need to succeed in school and beyond. Unfortunately, the new House leadership sought to enact substantial cuts to Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance in early 2011. This would have resulted in 368,000 low-income children losing services, not to mention tens of thousands of jobs lost. Fortunately, that budget was rejected in the Senate. In April, Congress finally passed the FY 2011 budget, which included significant budget cuts. Fortunately, Head Start and Early Head Start services were not cut (CCDBG did see a small cut, but nothing close to the House proposal), in great part because of the work of RESULTS and our allies. We must now build on this success.

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee (Labor-HHS) approved its  FY 2012 appropriations bill on September 20 10-8. A summary of the bill includes:

Head Start — Investments in early childhood education not only improve outcomes for low-income children and families, but save taxpayer dollars in the long-run through lower Federal and State welfare, special education, and criminal justice costs. The bill includes a $340 million increase for Head Start, maintaining the recent expansion of 61,000 Head Start slots funded with Recovery Act funding in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. In total, Head Start will provide comprehensive early childhood services to 968,000 low-income children and families.

Child Care and Development Block Grant--The bill includes $2.2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, including $283.6 million specified for child care quality improvement activities. The bill maintains funding at the fiscal year 2011 level and, including mandatory funding, will allow States to provide child care subsidies to an estimated 1.6 million low-income children and their working families.

In other words, despite a tough budget environment, no children will lose Head Start/Early Head Start services under levels proposed in the Senate! And, unlike many the fate of many other programs, the bill did not include cuts to child care funding versus 2011 levels (though not the increase we supported). Congratulations to all of you for your hard work!

Congress is working to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through October and November until they finalize the remaining 2012 budget. The House may not support Head Start and child care levels at the same as the Senate. Considering that once both the House and Senate Labor-HHS bills are passed (and will likely be different) the two sides must find a compromise, we needed the Senate bill to be as strong as it can be. Check our U.S. Poverty Actions & News page for the latest actions you can take to make a difference.

Update on Deficit Reduction Battles

On Tuesday August 2, 2011 the Budget Control Act of 2011 passed both the House (269-161) and the Senate (74-26). Here are the details of the bill:

  • In exchange for allowing the President to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion over the next few months, the bill enacts $1 trillion in budget cuts over the next ten years, which will go into effect beginning in FY 2012. $350 billion will come from security spending (defense, homeland security, foreign operations, veterans’ affairs, etc), the rest from non-defense discretionary spending.
  • House and Senate leadership appoints a “Super Committee” made of 12 current lawmakers (6 Democrats, 6 Republicans) that is tasked with finding at least another $1.2 trillion in cuts to correspond with another increase in the debt ceiling in early 2012 (essentially raising the ceiling until 2013). Those members are: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5) (co-chair), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (co-chair), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-4), Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC-6), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-6), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8).
  • The Super Committee can look at any part of the budget to find savings, including cuts to entitlement programs and raising new revenue. It must present its recommendations by Thanksgiving 2011. If the committee makes recommendations, they will get an up-or-down vote in both the House and Senate, with no ability to amend/filibuster.
  • If the Super Committee does not come to agreement on at least $1.2 trillion in new cuts, or if Congress fails to enact any recommendations made, a “sequestration” procedure would force automatic across-the-board cuts.
  • 50 percent of the cuts would come from defense spending, 50 percent from non-defense spending.
  • Part of the non-defense cuts would include a cut in payments to Medicare providers (maximum of two percent), but no benefit cuts.
  • A number of programs would be exempted from these across the board cuts. Exempted programs include (but not limited to) child care entitlement to states (this would exempt part but not all of CCDBG funding from cuts); child nutrition entitlement programs Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Commodity Supplemental Food Program; child support enforcement and family support programs; Pell Grants; Medicaid; foster care and permanency programs; SNAP; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); the EITC and Child Tax Credit; Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); and Social Security.
  • The House and Senate must vote on a balanced budget amendment by the end of the year, but passage is not a condition of raising the debt ceiling.

Unfortunately, every dollar of deficit reduction proposed in this bill comes from budget cuts. When all is said and done, Congress could enact $2.7 trillion in budget cuts (over the next ten years) without raising one dime of revenue to help with deficit reduction. Although the Super Committee can raise revenue in its recommendations to Congress, it is unclear if there is the will to do so. The good news is that many mandatory low-income programs RESULTS cares about (Medicaid, SNAP, child nutrition, the EITC and CTC) are not touched in this first round of cuts. In addition, many low-income programs (but not all) are exempt from any across-the-board cuts if the Super Committee is unsuccessful. In fact, the defense budget faces significant cuts not seen in years, especially if sequestration kicks in.

But this does not mean Head Start, child care, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP and other programs are safe. It is true that the sequestration procedure exempts many low-income programs for cuts, but that is not the case for the Super Committee. For the Super Committee, everything is on the table; for example, the parties had already agreed to at least $100 billion in cuts to Medicaid before talks broke down in July. Again, early childhood development programs are at risk of even deeper cuts at this stage of deficit reduction. If the committee does not come up with $1.2 in reduction an automatic, across-the-board cuts will go into effect. Head Start and Early Head Start are not exempt from these across-the-board cuts either.

RESULTS is concerned about budget deficits and recognize that we need a long-term solution to this problem. However, we have serious concern that efforts to address the deficit could disproportionately target programs that help low-income Americans. We also believe that policymakers should use job creation and rebuilding our economy as the guide for any deficit reduction package. Unlike tax breaks for businesses and millionaires, investments in education, health and opportunity for working families leads to job creation.

We will have more about the September Action and the broader negotiations over deficit reduction on our national conference call (September 10 at 12:30 pm ET). To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.