Statement from our executive director, Rich Huddleston:
President Obama’s budget proposal for FY2013 addresses deficit reduction, calls for increased revenues and investments in the future, and largely protects programs that benefit children and low-income families. While the budget proposal is far from perfect, we generally support the themes expressed by the President. Increased investments in early education and children’s health are two priorities AACF has long supported, and this budget bolsters both initiatives.
In addition to increased revenue, the President reduces non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level in 40 years, although he does this without cutting into programs designed to help low-income families. This balanced approach, a maxim many advocates have demanded for years, guarantees that deficit reduction is based on shared responsibility. Most importantly from our point of view, these cuts do not come from areas that we know produce positive results – education and public health.
The Medicaid program will continue to receive the funding it needs to meet a growing population, ensuring low-income families and children receive the care they need. Ensuring children receive preventive care in key developmental phases of life increases their learning -and ultimately their earning – potential dramatically. A healthy, well-educated workforce is critical to the country’s continued job growth.
Of particular interest to AACF and thousands of working families in Arkansas, the Child Care and Development Block Grant would receive an $825 million increase. Quality care is a key priority of this budget with $300 million targeted for a new initiative to support child care quality infrastructure, rating systems to help parents identify high-quality child care, and teacher quality improvement. A portion of these new quality funds would be distributed based on a formula and a portion would be distributed to states on a competitive basis.
Head Start would also see a significant funding increase of $85 million. Of that, $45 million would go to cost of living adjustments for existing programs. Over the next two years, the remaining $40 million would go toward the implementation of the re-competition process, which requires grantees that are not meeting quality measures to compete with others in order to continue to receive funding.
While we understand that this budget will not receive Congressional approval in its entirety, we applaud the attention paid to children’s programs and those that impact low-income families. As the debate continues this year, we call on our Arkansas lawmakers to follow the example set in this budget and invest in kids. Through quality health care, access to quality child care, and Head Start programs for both urban and rural Arkansans, our state will continue to develop the workers we need for a modern economy – one in which economic development rests heavily on human development.