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House and Senate Budget Proposals Seek Expanded Early Childhood Education Access

Kids making crafts
Children play and make crafts at the Capitol Playdate event. (Alan Rodriguez Espinoza/VPM News)

*Reported by VPM Intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza

The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates unveiled their budget proposals Sunday. Both of them include funds to expand access to early childhood education initiatives. 

This aligns with Governor Ralph Northam’s budget, which proposes $95 million dollars for early childhood education. $60 million of that would fund initiatives for at-risk preschoolers. 

Early childhood advocates and their children gathered for a “playdate” outside of the state Capitol Monday, where they greeted legislators and voiced support for both chambers’ proposals. 

“Right now, 55% of higher-income kids attend preschool compared to only 34% of lower-income kids,” said Emily Griffey, policy director at Voices for Virginia Children.

The Governor’s budget also aims to address a growing need for infant care. Griffey says infant care can sometimes be more expensive than college tuition. She says two-thirds of parents in Virginia work and need access to affordable childcare.

“We can’t do this. We can’t expect parents to work without the state putting in some kind of public investment,” Griffey said.

Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam also attended the playdate. She says she stands behind an increase in early childhood education funding.

“Everyone knows that when our children thrive, Virginia thrives too and we’ve been really thrilled at the bipartisan turnout to support this initiative,” Northam said.

Both chambers’ budgets include funding for programs that would support economically disadvantaged youth through services like literacy support, and for job training programs for low-income community college students entering the field. 

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