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Contact: Ed Walz
Phone: (202) 657-0685

Raise Budget Caps on Children’s Initiatives, Advocates Urge

Federal Budget

Washington – More than a dozen leading advocates for children and families today urged congressional leadership to craft a year-end fiscal package that increases investments in the nation’s children, by raising arbitrary congressional budget caps on “non-defense discretionary” appropriations. The letter, coordinated by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus, cites a finding from First Focus’s Children’s Budget 2015 that, due largely to budget caps, K-12 education funding has dropped at five times the rate of government-wide spending cuts.

“Yes, the federal government has budget problems, but denying kids the help they need to grow and thrive is the wrong way to solve them,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley.

As the letter details, discretionary budget caps resulting from the 2013 congressional budget sequestration have resulted in deep cuts to federal initiatives that matter for children. Education funding dropped nearly 20 percent since 2011, according to Children’s Budget 2015. Child abuse and neglect prevention and response funding dropped nearly 12 percent since 2010, housing funding allocated to children dropped 5.2 percent since 2011, and funding for “WIC,” the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children, dropped 8 percent.

Budget caps initially applied equally to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. But a loophole in the 2016 congressional budget resolution provides an increase in defense discretionary spending over 10 years, by funneling $187 billion in additional funding through off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations accounts. That same budget resolution cuts non-defense discretionary funding, which includes a wide range of children’s initiatives, over the same timeframe by nearly $500 billion. The letter urges parity, asking policymakers to raise non-defense discretionary budget caps to levels on balance with defense spending.

“Investing in a strong defense protects children from real and serious threats. So does investing in the initiatives that protect kids from hunger, homelessness, ignorance, abuse and neglect, illness, and poverty,” said Lesley.

The letter also cautions that the adoption of a “continuing resolution” (CR) or other consolidated fiscal package puts at risk funding increases included in individual appropriations bills passed to date. For example, bipartisan efforts in congressional appropriations committees resulted in increases to “Impact Aid” education funding, public housing (41 percent of which benefits children), and Head Start. These and other incremental increases in funding for children’s initiatives could be left out of a year-end fiscal package that uses current funding levels, rather than chamber-passed spending bills, as a starting point.

“As a children’s advocacy group, our first and only question is ‘What’s best for children?,” said Lesley. “Experience shows that regular order is best for kids, but the next-best thing is a CR that protects this year’s funding gains.”

The letter was signed by:

  1. First Focus
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics
  3. American Federation of Teachers
  4. Children’s Health Fund
  5. MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
  6. MomsRising
  7. National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
  8. National Education Association
  9. National Head Start Association
  10. National Title I Association
  11. Public Advocacy for Kids
  12. Save the Children
  13. Save the Children Action Network (SCAN)
  14. United Way Worldwide


First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit