FFYF supports integrating early learning into a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Please read our recent media alert:

Proposed Senate ESEA reauthorization bill would boost school readiness and early learning

The draft Senate overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) makes essential progress toward ensuring that children begin school fully prepared and better poised for educational and life success, according to the First Five Years Fund. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, released the bill Tuesday.

Reflecting recent scientific and economic research as well as updated thinking on best developmental practices for young children, the proposed revamp of the law known as “No Child Left Behind” weaves early learning in a more significant way than ever into the nation’s most significant federal education law.

The draft bill incorporates into the law the Race to the Top competitive grant initiative for states, including its early learning component, called the “Early Learning Challenge,” which states are competing for now. It also takes critical steps towards coordinating and integrating early learning and the K-12 system through professional development for teachers and school leaders, improvement strategies for struggling schools, allowable uses of Title 1 funding, family engagement programs, literacy strategies and transitions between early education and kindergarten.

“Brains don’t suddenly flip on at the age of five, and this bill represents a significant step toward connecting what children need before the age of five to what we expect them to achieve after age five,” said Cornelia Grumman, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund. “Senator Harkin, who has long been a champion for young children, and his colleagues on the Committee recognize what scientific and economic research has proven: We must start with better early learning opportunities for at-risk children, starting at birth, if we want to deliver improved education outcomes and narrow the achievement gap.”

The First Five Years Fund continues to analyze the bill this week, but applauds the committee’s overall approach toward demolishing the walls that exist between the nation’s K-12 system and its early education system. FFYF is particularly pleased that the bill would allow the Early Learning Challenge, the competitive grant program to states, to continue as an essential part of Race to the Top. The Early Learning Challenge holds enormous promise for building effective and efficient systems that will help states meet their school readiness goals. FFYF looks forward to working with Sen. Harkin, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and the committee to ensure this program remains well-designed and well-implemented.

The bill will go before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The full text of the bill is available here. Additional information on the First Five Years Fund recommendations is available here.