BURLINGTON, March 16 – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced today “a very significant increase” in funding for child care and Head Start in Vermont and throughout the country.
“Without strong early childhood educational opportunities for our children, kids will continue to drop out of school, continuing the cycle of poverty. The comprehensive services these programs provide can break that cycle,” Sanders said.
The economic stimulus package that Congress recently passed includes $2.1 billion for the Head Start, enough to double the number of infants and toddlers served by the Early Head Start program. For a separate Child Care Development Block Grant, Congress set aside an additional $2 billion, a 50 percent increase over former President Bush’s last budget.
In Vermont, Head Start will receive $14.1 million this year. That funding comes from the stimulus legislation that Congress passed on February 14 plus the omnibus budget bill passed March 10. Vermont’s total is $607,000 more than last year.
Child care grants in Vermont will total $3.91 million this year, a $1.4 million increase over last year.
“I think most Vermonters would agree with me that the way we treat our children in this country is nothing less than a disgrace,” Sanders said. “Today, the United States has, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. Millions of working families in Vermont and throughout the country have an enormously difficult time finding quality, affordable childcare and early childhood education for their kids.
Last year alone, only 39 percent of eligible children were served by Head Start. For Early Head Start, a mere 2 percent of eligible kids were served. That means that nearly 4.5 million young children living in poverty were denied services they were eligible for that would help get them skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
More children will be served by Head Start and more families will receive federal assistance in paying for quality child care. A few of the ways stimulus funding can provide relief is by:
• Reducing the number of families on waitlists,
• Reducing the amount that parents have to pay for child care, which will alleviate some of the strain on family budgets,
• Changing eligibility guidelines so more low-income families qualify for services,
• Helping Head Start teachers and child care providers receive additional training and education, and
• Increasing salaries for teachers and providers who struggle to make ends meet on an annual salary of $19,000 a year.
“As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Budget Committee, I will continue to work with President Obama to increase funding for these vital programs and to stress their importance in Congress,” Sanders said.