Oregon Wins Back Funds for Early Childhood
Although Oregon’s even-year 35-day sessions are fairly narrow in scope, this year we had an urgent opportunity to advocate for restoration of funds dedicated to early learning, including Head Start, Early Head Start, Relief Nurseries, and other key programs.
In the 2013 session, the Legislature had held back 2 percent of all state agency budgets, including the Department of Education, which includes these services. But this 2% cut did not impact the largest state budgets such as K-12 and higher education, which have their own budgets and aren’t line-items in larger agency budgets.
Children’s Institute was part of the successful advocacy that won back these funds this session.
Specifically, the Legislature approved the Ways and Means Committee budget recommendation to restore previous reductions for Oregon Pre-Kindergarten program ($2,548,483 restored); Early Learning Hub funding, Health Families Oregon, Relief Nurseries, and Early Learning Kindergarten Readiness grants ($673,910 restored); and the newly authorized strategic education initiatives ($436,976 restored). The Early Childhood Special Education programs had $1,080,405 restored, and $562,775 restored for the Early Intervention program.
Of course, although we are thrilled to have these funds restored, we’re also eager to encourage policies that increase investments in early childhood programs such as these that improve outcomes for children now and later. That’s why we are working toward increasing the number of children, especially low-income children, who have access to high quality early learning that will help them be ready for Kindergarten and reading on grade level by third grade.
While the short session was relatively quiet for birth to age 8 issues, the coming year promises to be critical. As the state continues to form its early learning system, new “Early Learning Hubs” continue to roll out this year across the state. These hubs are charged with identifying children who need the most help, connecting children and families with the right services to meet their needs, and evaluating the impact.
As we look toward the full session in February 2015, increased investments in early learning will be on our agenda. And on a smaller but significant note, the new Early Learning Wing and Neighborhood Center at Early Boyles Elementary school, one of CI’s Early Works sites, will open with the new school year in the fall!
Dana Hepper, Early Learning Director, Children’s Institute (April 24, 2014)