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February 23, 2015


Andrew Brenner


National Coalition Offers ESEA Recommendations to Congressional Leaders on Early Ed

AFT, NEA, AFSCME, SEIU, CAP, FFYF, Save the Children & others urge stronger partnership

& increased funding for early ed in ESEA

WASHINGTON – Grow America Stronger, a coalition of over forty education organizations led by the First Five Years Fund (FFYF), released collective recommendations to leaders on Capitol Hill urging the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to establish greater coordination with the K-12 system, create a dedicated funding stream for early education and to better incorporate early education throughout the law.

“This is a critical opportunity for Congress to take advantage of the overwhelming bipartisan support shown for early childhood education across the country,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund. “Local districts and states, 36 of which applied for preschool development grants in 2014, are recognizing that they can’t meet the goals of the current ESEA iteration unless they focus on the younger years. We must support our state and local leadership in their effort to meet and exceed ESEA requirements by providing a stronger federal partnership.”

Included among the signers of the Grow America Stronger letter (full list below) were: the AFT, AFSCME, CLASP, FFYF, NAEYC, NEA, NWLC, Save the Children Action Network, SEIU, United Way Worldwide and ZERO TO THREE. The letter to Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and Reps. John Kline and Robert Scott stresses the need for a continuum of care for the nation’s most at-risk children – one that is adequately integrated into the modern K-12 system.

The letter comes shortly after Nobel Prize-winning economist Prof. James Heckman made a similar argument in Roll Call, urging congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to heed the overwhelming research base and critical need to incorporate quality early learning into the next iteration of ESEA. “Research shows that early learning is essential for school readiness, lifelong learning and achievement,” Heckman said. “If early learning isn’t made an integral component of the ESEA reauthorization, America will find it difficult to reach its goal of improving its educational system and producing high school graduates who are prepared for success in college and career.”

The Grow America Stronger letter outlines how children who participate in early childhood education programs from before birth to age five enter the K-12 system adequately prepared and ready to learn. The letter stresses a reauthorization strategy that includes increased investment in high-quality early childhood education, in addition to existing funding for early education and K-12 education, to support state efforts to expand access to children from low- and moderate-income families that are unable to access services. These services form a continuum of care, from high-quality home-visiting programs before birth through a child’s entrance into elementary school programs, which improve education, health, and economic outcomes for children.

To ensure the law adequately represents the role quality early learning programs play in the ultimate success of students in the K-12 system, the Grow America Stronger coalition has made recommendations which fall into four categories:

  1. Establish a dedicated funding stream to improve access to high-quality early education
  2. Maintain existing federal investments in early childhood education under ESEA
  3. Enhance coordination and alignment of early learning and K-3 programs
  4. Encourage states to adopt developmentally appropriate, early learning assessments“With reauthorization of ESEA on the horizon, Congress has an opportunity to ensure that all children—regardless of income, zip code, or background—start their K-12 education on equal footing. Preparing our sons and daughters for a lifetime of learning must start in their earliest years,” said

“With reauthorization of ESEA on the horizon, Congress has an opportunity to ensure that all children—regardless of income, zip code, or background—start their K-12 education on equal footing. Preparing our sons and daughters for a lifetime of learning must start in their earliest years,” said Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress. “An investment in early childhood education is one that will pay dividends for generations to come.”

The Grow America Stronger coalition is hopeful that the Senate and House committees will begin to address early learning in a meaningful way by including the voices of early childhood programs and educators in upcoming hearings and roundtables.


Full List of Signers:

First Five Years Fund

National Women’s Law Center

Ounce of Prevention

Alliance for Early Success

Parents as Teachers

The Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC)


Center for American Progress Action Fund


Alliance for Strong Families and Communities


United Way Worldwide

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY-USA)


First 5 LA


Fair Share

New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

Child Care Aware of America

Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC)

First Focus Campaign for Children

Generations United – Seniors4Kids

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

IDEA Infant Toddler Coordinators Association (ITCA)

National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE) NAFCC

National Black Child Development Institute

National Education Association

National Organization for Women

National PTA

Nemours Children’s Health System


Save the Children Action Network

Teaching Strategies

Easter Seals

National Center for Families Learning



About Grow America Stronger

Grow America Stronger is a campaign powered by FFYF and other early childhood advocates to make quality early childhood education a national priority. It provides the information and advocacy tools to help people, including parents, teachers and voters, advance more federal investment in quality early childhood programs.

About the First Five Years Fund

The First Five Years Fund helps America achieve better results in education, health and economic productivity through investments in quality early childhood education programs for disadvantaged children. FFYF provides knowledge, data, and advocacy – persuading federal policymakers to make investments in the first five years of a child’s life that create greater returns for all.