This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.
This post is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.
Ask any city leader and they will tell you that giving children a strong start in life is one of the most important investments we can make toward building vibrant and prosperous communities. This is not just anecdotal — research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain development has occurred by the age of five, with 700 neural connections per second being formed during the early years of a child’s brain development.
At the National League of Cities (NLC), we amplify the work local leaders are doing to increase early childhood opportunities for young children. Through partnerships with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, cities are aligning systems for young children to improve outcomes for children and their families.
City leaders can significantly advance local progress through programs, policies and the alignment of systems that impact young children, but this work exists within a federal and state context. From help paying the high costs of child care to seats in a Head Start classroom, federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support. This budget proposal will harm city leaders’ abilities to foster high-quality early childhood opportunities and support families.
While the blueprint is only a “skinny budget,” we can expect to see a larger plan in the near future that details the more than $54 billion in proposed cuts to domestic programs that help children and families in cities thrive. Cuts to key departments like Health and Human Services should alarm city leaders whose communities benefit from programs like Head Start, which serves over a million children each year.
Classrooms in every state in the country help young children develop cognitive and developmental skills and establish habits that shape their future health outcomes. Without Head Start, many more of our most vulnerable parents would be without an early education setting for their children. Long waiting lists mean that less than half of eligible three- and four-year-olds are able to participate in Head Start.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is another example of a federal program investing in early childhood. Despite its lengthy name, its purpose is simple: to help parents afford child care. The cost of child care is out of reach for too many families. Center-based infant care is more expensive than one year of public university tuition in 30 states and Washington, D.C.
The experiences children have in child care lay the foundation for their cognitive development and allow their parents to work and pursue education. Every year, businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion due to employee absenteeism as a result of child care breakdowns. However, current levels of funding prevent five out of six eligible children from receiving CCDBG dollars to help their parents afford care.
These are just two examples of the federal programs that work to improve outcomes for young children in cities nationwide. A lack of funding for these critical programs already leaves many needs unmet, and further cuts to domestic programs would risk eliminating this support altogether. On behalf of city leaders, we strongly encourage Congress to stand with children, families and cities across the country and stop cuts to key early childhood programs that our cities’ children and families rely on.
About the author: Alana Eichner is the Early Childhood Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.