HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County leaders announced a proposal to invest nearly $8 million in early childhood programs at a press conference Tuesday.
The Early Childhood Impact Fund will be voted on at Harris County Commissioner's Court on Tuesday.
The proposal aims to invest $7.9 million in American Rescue Plan funds to seed a targeted portfolio of early childhood programs across Harris County.
"Early childhood education is a make-or-break resource," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. "The value of early childhood cannot be overstated."
The programs include resources for educators and new parents and the expansion of home-based child care providers.
Hidalgo said about half of children who live below the poverty line in the U.S. enter kindergarten without the resources they need to succeed.
In Harris County, it is estimated that about 25% of children live below the poverty line.
"They're behind before the race has even started," Hidalgo said. "You don't need the data to know that that sets them behind later in life."
The proposed early childhood education efforts are proven to increase education rates, increase earnings and reduce children's chances of contact with the criminal justice program, Hidalgo said.
"If you care about gun violence and public safety, if you care about public health, if you care about the economy, if you care about opportunity, you must also care about early childhood education," Hidalgo said.
The county selected three programs to invest in as part of the fund. The programs will impact tens of thousands of Harris County children, according to Hidalgo.
First, $4.6 million will be given to Texas Children's Hospital to implement and build upwards its community-based universal targeted intervention model. The program focuses on providing resources to parents to help kids develop language and literacy skills.
Through the Texas Children's program, 20,000 families will get support, Hidalgo said. The program will also train 6,000 early childhood educators across the county.
Second, $4.2 million will be donated to non-profit organization First Three Years and their Safe Babies Approach.
Their program will support 300 young kids and their families, with a focus on increasing the number of foster kids who are returned to their biological parents.
Finally, $906,000 will be donated to the non-profit group The Alliance in order to expand home-based child care options for Harris County families.
Hidalgo said the proposal "represents out best hope to catalyze real improvements in early childhood education in Harris County."
The funding is set to last through 2025. Funds are set to start being dispersed starting March 1 if the proposal is approved.