In a letter to Senators Alexander and Murray, FFYF’s Perry makes the case for a strong early childhood education presence in the final bill

Early this week the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) released the language of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The proposed Every Child Achieves Act, which represents strong bipartisan compromise between committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), includes a number of early learning provisions, recognizing that education in the earliest years is an essential component of a child’s success later in school. First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Kris Perry today thanked Senators Alexander and Murray in a letter, which also calls for the inclusion of a dedicated funding stream for early childhood education in the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

“Many provisions in the bill help increase state and local commitments to high-quality early learning opportunities that improve the education, health and economic outcomes for our nation,” Perry writes. “Thank you again for your hard work and commitment to ensuring America’s greatest resource – our children – have an opportunity to benefit from quality early learning opportunities so they enter the K-12 system adequately prepared and ready to learn.”

The base bill includes a number of early learning-specific provisions, including mentioning explicitly the allowable use of Title I funds for early learning initiatives, requiring state standards to be aligned with state early learning guidelines, permitting Title II funds to be used for professional development that focuses on a child’s early years and works to coordinate activities between preschool and elementary teachers and leaders, and including pre-K as part of the charter school program.

Earlier this year, FFYF formally submitted its recommendations to Congress as to how best include high quality early childhood education in ESEA – most of which have been incorporated into the base bill released yesterday by the Senate HELP Committee. Today’s letter from Perry highlights one recommendation that was not included, which should be considered during the amendment process.

“As you continue the legislative process, we hope to continue our productive partnership and work towards the inclusion of a dedicated funding stream for early childhood education in the bill,” added Perry.

Governors across the country – Republicans and Democrats alike – are making early childhood education a priority as they draw up budgets and develop legislative initiatives for the coming year. What’s more, twenty-eight states from California to Michigan and DC increased investment in early childhood education in 2014, according to the Education Commission of the States. In states like North Dakota and Montana – which currently provide no public pre-K – political leaders are trying to make first-ever investments.

A 2014 FFYF poll conducted by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates shows Americans from all walks of life support greater federal investments in early childhood education. Importantly, these same voters are willing for Congress and President Obama to spend now in order to capitalize on the economic return on investment from early childhood education, as documented by Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor James Heckman. The national poll results reveal that 64 percent of voters say our political leaders should be doing more to ensure that children start kindergarten with the knowledge and skills to do their best. Seven in ten Americans also support a proposal that would increase federal investment to help states provide more access to high-quality early childhood programs for low- and moderate-income families.

Click here to read Perry’s letter online: