Early Childhood Funding Study Released – Understanding this $342+M investment
The Finance Project has mapped and analyzed the financial resources that the state of Delaware devotes to early childhood services in a recent report –$328M in federal and state funds (about four percent of the state budget), and at least $14M from private funders in 2009.
Some encouraging findings:
- Delaware has drawn down all federal funds for which we were eligible (except entitlement due to low enrollment and some competitive opportunities) in recent years
- Delaware’s longitudinal data system will help coordinate and focus resources even further, and Race to the Top funds will accelerate this effort
Yet we can improve in several areas:
- Reallocating flexible federal dollars for early childhood services, such as Community Services Block Grants and Title I, which currently only 2 districts use for early childhood programs. Research has made clear the return on investment –in increased DSTP results and decreased special education and remedial needs— now it will take reallocating funds from existing programs or using new stimulus funds.
- Coordinating state services for cost efficiencies. For example, two agencies are provided funding to maintain child care resource lists, and other duplications may be revealed through a review of contracts.
- Creating a public-private endowment fund or private foundation dedicated to early childhood, which would pool the resources of private funders and invest them strategically in partnership with the public sector.
- Creating new revenue sources or reallocating existing funds for a number of programs for which current funding levels are inadequate. For example, the Delaware Stars quality rating and improvement system is currently funded only by federal and private funding despite broad support. (Given the state’s fiscal challenges, the early childhood community had been hoping for additional federal support from the Early Learning Challenge Fund—which could have been larger than RTTT but did pass.)
We know that investments in quality early childhood education and services, particularly targeted to high-need children, translate directly into long-term success. Now we have the information about how to make each dollar work harder for Delaware’s kids, but will we have the will to make tough changes and new investments in the short term, knowing the long-term payoff?