Now that the executive agencies have released their line item funding tables and other spending details, we can finally close the book on the fiscal year 2011 Federal Budget. If you would like more information on how we arrived at this point, please read Part 1 of this post.

The picture for FY 2011 is positive. (Click here to view a table displaying the funding levels for all the discretionary programs that affect early learning.) Funding levels have increased by approximately $1 billion, representing a net gain of 9.5% over FY 2010 amounts. Half these gains come from a sizeable increase to Health and Human Services programs like Head Start, the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Visiting Program. The other half comes from an additional $500 million for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. Other programs under the Department of Education remained generally unaffected by cuts, aside from the 0.2% rescission. Even Start, which was cut entirely, was the only exception. The elimination of Even Start had also been proposed in the President’s FY 2011 budget.

The increase of 9.5% does not include two other programs that could potentially have positive impacts on early learning and development. Investing in Innovation and the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative both received increases, but it is unclear how much will go specifically towards early learning. The Promise Neighborhoods Initiative in particular, though, is a holistic approach to serving children from birth on, and contains many elements of the successful Harlem Children’s Zone model.

For a truly accurate look at the amount of funding available for programs in FY 2011, it is also necessary to factor in money allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In ARRA, money was awarded to Title I, IDEA, Head Start, and CCDBG. The final column offers the total FY 2011 funding amounts for those programs.

These increases are a step in the right direction. Every dollar spent on early learning represents an investment in the continued prosperity of our nation. According to Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman, high quality early learning opportunities are one of the most cost effective ways to improve children’s education, health, and economic outcomes.

As we turn the page to the FY 2012 budget, it is imperative to realize that these additional investments may be short lived. The House Appropriations Committee recently released their allocations for each of the 12 subcommittees, in line with the House passed Budget Resolution. For Labor-Ed-HHS, the funding reflects an $18 billion cut from the amount spent in FY 2011 and it is $41 billion less than what the President has requested in his FY 2012 budget.

With ARRA funding dramatically declining in some cases for FY 2012, the impact of these cuts could be even greater. The Senate has yet to pass a Budget Resolution and has therefore not released any funding levels for comparison. Though the final FY 2012 totals are a long way off, these proposed cuts do not bode well for programs that help children and families.