President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request is a welcome step forward to enacting many of the key policies discussed in his recent State of the Union address. The budget is also a starting point for addressing the needs of young men and boys of color, as recently highlighted in the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. The priorities outlined in this budget will increase investments in programs that will support opportunities for our nation’s children and families, many of whom face barriers based on income or race, inhibiting them from reaching their full potential.
Specifically, the president has requested $56 billion in new spending for the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative,” an economic initiative which would provide much-needed investments in our youngest Americans through early childhood education, a new Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition, support for 35 additional Promise Neighborhoods to expand educational opportunities in high-poverty communities and increased funding for voluntary home visiting and child care programs. The president’s proposed budget also puts forth requests for raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), investing in impactful job training programs and creating a new way for working Americans to start saving for retirement.
The president is right to request additional funding for early childhood education; high-quality programs can create new learning opportunities for children and families while producing strong academic and economic outcomes. An increase in funding for Preschool Development Grants from $250 million to $750 million, aimed at reaching two-thirds of all states by 2015, would help lay the groundwork for the president’s Preschool for All initiative, a $75 billion federal investment in proven early childhood education strategies.
Increasing investments in our nation’s youngest learners will help ensure that all children, regardless of race or income, are ready to learn and contribute when they step into a classroom. Research clearly shows that by focusing on a child’s earliest and most formative years, and empowering families to address the key factors that influence a child’s academic and emotional development, children are 29 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 33 percent more likely to have meaningful careers. Investments in high-quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children are shown to provide taxpayers with returns of 7 to 10 percent – per child, per year – based on reduced costs in remedial education, health and justice system expenditures and the tax revenues generated by increased earnings.
The proposed budget also includes a new $300 million Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition centered on addressing the factors that create opportunity gaps for low-income students across the country. We know that education and economic stability are inextricably linked. Unfortunately, more than 32 million children currently live in low-income households. Children who live in poverty in their earliest years are far more likely to drop out of school and perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
The creation of a new $6 billion Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, which would offer competitive grants to community colleges and employers to launch new job training programs, as well as increased investments in apprenticeship opportunities, are critical steps to helping strengthen economic opportunities for young parents, workers and those who may be re-entering the workforce.
The president’s budget would also double the value of the EITC for workers without children and non-custodial parents and makes it available to younger adult workers. This proposal, along with the president’s support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10, are major policy milestones toward helping more young people attain quality jobs and achieve economic security.
We look forward to a discussion on these issues and continuing our support of policies that will move our country forward by ensuring more families can become economically secure and that every child has a fair chance at success in school and life.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to help break the cycle of poverty by removing barriers based on race or income that hold back children, so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.