House Approves Legislation to Help More Children Reach Kindergarten Ready to Succeed

Sep 17, 2009 Issues: Early Childhood, Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to dramatically transform early learning settings for low-income children to ensure they arrive at school with the skills they need to succeed.  The bill, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R 3221) was passed by a bipartisan vote of 253 to 171.

Among other investments, H.R. 3221 establishes an Early Learning Challenge Fund to award competitive grants to states that implement comprehensive standards-based reforms to their early learning systems to help transform early education standards and practices, build an effective early childhood workforce, and improve the school readiness outcomes of young children. Transforming early education is a top domestic policy agenda item for President Obama.  Today, almost 12 million children under 5 regularly spend time in child care.
“Investing in our earliest learners is an investment in our future; it’s a smart and strategic investment that will help us regain our global competitiveness and our economy recover,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. “The first five years of life are critical to laying the foundation for a lifetime of success and achievement which means we need to start giving these children the attention and resources they deserve well before they enter the doors of kindergarten.”

By age 4, children from low-income families are already 18 months behind their more advantaged peers. Economists, business leaders, and experts agree that smart investments in early education are vital to closing the achievement gap and preparing children to thrive in school and in life. Studies show that every $1 dollar invested in early education can yield anywhere from $1.25 to $17 in returns down the line.

The legislation will invest $1 billion each year over eight years to build comprehensive, high quality early learning systems for children birth to age five. In order to qualify for the grant, states demonstrate progress in improving:

  • Early learning standards reform.
  • Evidence-based program quality standards.
  • Enhanced program review and monitoring of program quality.
  • Comprehensive professional development.
  • Coordinated system for facilitating screenings for disability, health, and mental health needs.
  • Improved support to parents.
  • Process for assessing children’s school readiness.
  • Improved data systems to improve child outcomes.

For more information on the bill, click here.