First Five Years Fund Offers ESEA Recommendations to Congressional Leaders
In letter to Hill, FFYF urges reauthorization and hearings to adequately incorporate early education
WASHINGTON – The First Five Years Fund (FFYF) formally released its recommendations for how the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) can keep pace with the growing body of research and support for early childhood education. In a letter to Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, as well as Reps. John Kline and Bobby Scott, FFYF outlined how children who participate in early childhood programs from birth to age five enter the K-12 system adequately prepared and ready to learn.
“In the last two years, we’ve seen an increased focus on early childhood policies at the state, local and federal levels,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund. “This incredible momentum is rooted largely in the awareness that our nation’s lawmakers and leaders have given to these issues, paired with overwhelming bipartisan voter demand and mainstream support for increased investments in early learning. Lawmakers should use the reauthorization of ESEA to reflect these advancements and support efforts to elevate, expand and better integrate quality early learning with K-12 education.”
The First Five Years Fund recognizes the important work being done to reauthorize ESEA and reexamine our nation’s current education system to properly ensure students graduate prepared for college or career. While FFYF is excited to see increased engagement around the topic, Congress should not lose sight of the opportunity to acknowledge that students build the foundation for successful, lifelong learning in the earliest stages of life from birth to age five.
ESEA is a real opportunity to help pave the way for a stronger federal partnership in early childhood education. To ensure the law adequately represents the role quality early learning programs play in the ultimate success of students in the K-12 system, FFYF has made recommendations which fall into three categories:
- Supporting Quality Early Childhood Learning Programs
- Improving Flexibility to Enhance Investments in Early Learning and
- Establishing a Coordinated and Aligned Early Learning and K-12 System
Increased federal investment in high-quality early childhood education for children from birth to age five is a critical component of supporting the growing number of states and communities developing and expanding programs. Just last week, the Education Commission of the States released a funding report showing significant investments in pre-K at the state level. Twenty-eight states from California to Michigan and DC increased investment in 2014, and in North Dakota and Montana – states with no public pre-K – political leaders are trying to make first-ever investments.
More than ever, states are responding to the growing body of evidence proving that early childhood programs improve the lives of at-risk children and lead to improved education, health and economic outcomes for our nation. But, they will need a dedicated funding stream to support their efforts to expand high-quality early childhood education to more children from low- and moderate-income families.
“On the heels of the President’s proposal to provide significant relief to working families seeking quality, affordable and safe child care, and state of the states, we hope that 2015 will continue to be an eventful year for early childhood education,” said Perry. “The reauthorization of ESEA is a critical time to keep the momentum going, prioritize early childhood education and recognize what researchers and advocates have been saying for years: education begins at birth.”
As Congress moves toward building stronger federal-state partnerships in early learning, ESEA must also provide flexibility in the use of funds to support these systems as a key part of reauthorization. FFYF recommends that improvements be made to ensure the seamless coordination of services between early learning and K-12 systems. Reauthorization should also seize upon the opportunity to build on the current law and better align and integrate early learning into the K-12 system.
FFYF is hopeful that the Senate and House Committees will take advantage of the opportunity to address early learning in a meaningful way, beginning by including the voices of early childhood programs and educators in upcoming hearings and roundtables.
The First Five Years Fund (www.ffyf.org) 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.