A panel of education advocates gathered at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference to discuss the work ahead in the early months after authorizing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Grant-making foundations interested in identifying the opportunities to support implementation of the new law heard from Ann Whalen, the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, Kris Perry, the Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund, Lisa Klein, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Early Success, and Anna Cano-Morales, the Director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

Signed into law on December 10, 2015 after passing both the House (359: 64) and the Senate (85: 12) with significant bipartisan support, ESSA includes opportunities to increase investment in early learning across the law, in addition to the authorization of a brand new $250 million Preschool Development Grants program. This bipartisan consensus marks the next step in an integrated education system that goes beyond K-12 by starting early in the critical years and preparing students for college and career readiness.

Steps towards transitioning into the new law have been underway. The Department of Education published a Request for Information on Implementing Programs under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and received over 1,000 submissions from advocates and stakeholders across the country. Since the passage of ESSA, the Department of Education has held over 100 stakeholder Listening Sessions which have included educators, parents and civil rights advocates.  An opportunity for continued public engagement is forthcoming as the Department will be publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that address state ESSA plans, state accountability systems and supplement, not supplant.

With the opportunity for states to leverage federal dollars to continue, expand and improve what states have already done to invest in early learning, it is critical to provide clear guidance in how to pursue the opportunities in writing state plans and elsewhere. FFYF is committed to continue elevating what states and school districts are already doing and what more could be done through this new language.

The FFYF Toolkit on ESSA is available here: (ESSA Side by Side; PDG Comparison; Summary and Analysis; ESSA RFI)