Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Early Education for America’s Children

Nov 13, 2013 Issues: Education, Early Childhood

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Access and affordability to high-quality early learning programs for nearly 20 million children would be dramatically improved under bipartisan legislation introduced today by U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Richard Hanna (R-NY), co-chair of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Caucus, and other lawmakers.

Decades of research have found that quality preschool leads to a wide range of short- and long-term benefits, including better educational outcomes, stronger job earnings, and lower crime and delinquency rates. The “Strong Start for America's Children Act,” will dramatically improve access to full-day early learning opportunities by establishing new federal-state partnerships that prepare children to arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. The bipartisan legislation is the most aggressive, comprehensive quality initiative to provide young children with the necessary early learning tools to succeed in school and in life in the past 20 years.   

At a press conference, actress and Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner urged swift passage of the bill.

“Education is often cited as the “great equalizer” of opportunity leading to greater employment opportunities and economic prosperity,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller. “The fact is, quality early childhood education works. The problem is, most kids don't have access to it. The Strong Start for America's Children Act will help close the achievement gap, job gap and wage gap between rich and poor. This legislation will not only improve children’s access to quality early education, it will also ensure that a new generation of children is better prepared to succeed in school and in life – every child deserves this opportunity.”

“High-quality early learning guarantees a reduction in spending on entitlements, welfare and incarceration,” U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna said. “It also lowers obesity rates, helping to reduce healthcare costs. By focusing on early education we can begin to break the back of intergenerational poverty, producing more taxpayers and a more competitive America through a better-educated, growing middle class. We cannot guarantee every child equal success in life, but we can promise them the opportunity to be successful. I hope this effort is the beginning of a sustained bipartisan conversation on how expanding access to early education will make our economy more competitive and ensure each child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”

The Strong Start for America's Children Act builds on the framework put forward by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union Address and fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. It  accelerates the progress already made by states, pushed for by Democratic and Republican governors alike, and will help states that want to start or expand high-quality early learning programs. It will also build on investments in Head Start and improve access to high-quality early childhood care and education for infants and toddlers.

“The early learning bill introduced today reflects a growing, bipartisan understanding that, to ensure our nation’s children have the educational and economic opportunities they deserve, we must act early,” said U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan. “It’s long been clear that high-quality early learning opportunities produce lasting benefits, including higher high school graduation rates and lower incarceration rates. Now, a broad coalition is calling for action on President Obama’s plan to make quality preschool available to every 4-year-old in America, drawing on the example of leading states. Earlier today, Democrats and Republicans, including Sen. Harkin, Rep. Miller, and Rep. Hanna stood with leaders from law enforcement, business, the military, and early childhood education advocates to call for action—and to invite others to join this vital effort. This is the most important single step we can take for the future of our young people. Let’s join together to make it happen.”

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. A bipartisan poll released in July shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans support quality early childhood education, second only to increasing jobs and economic growth as a national priority. Conducted by a bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research for the First Five Years Fund, the poll shows that 86 percent of voters rate ensuring children get a good start in life as an important national priority. Seven-in-ten Americans support a federal plan to help states and local communities provide better early childhood education.

The Strong Start for America's Children Act has strong support from an extraordinary cross-section of law enforcement, military leaders, business, faith-based, child advocacy and early childhood education organizations. 

For a fact sheet on the legislation, click here.

For a list of organizations supporting the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, click here.