Statement from First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Kris Perry on the announcement of the Preschool Development Grants competition:

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will announce the launch of the $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition in Pittsburgh. FFYF applauds Congress for funding the program and this work by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning and the Department of Health and Human Services to support states as they build and expand high-quality early learning programs. In addition, this effort continues to lay the groundwork for making early childhood education a federal priority by increasing investments and expanding partnerships with states and communities to support quality programs that produce documented results.

We encourage states to take full advantage of this opportunity. These grants would support the expansion of state-based pre-K programs by providing competitive grants to states most willing to commit to creating or expanding a high-quality preschool system that can serve four-year-olds from low-and moderate-income families, including children with disabilities. Additionally, these grants can provide the support needed to reinforce the connections between early childhood and K-12 education in states through better integration and coordination.

Increased investments in high-quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children from birth to age 5 are one of the most, if not the most, effective strategies for improving education, health and economic outcomes in our country. Through increased school and career achievement, early childhood education can help reduce remedial education, health and criminal justice system costs in the long-term.

Parents and families, educators, business leaders, law enforcement officials and military leaders across the country recognize that now is the time to invest. Seventy-one percent of American voters support greater investment in early childhood education if it increased the deficit in the short-term but paid for itself in the long-term, according to a new poll conducted by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates.

In the past few months, gubernatorial candidates in Maryland, Arkansas and Texas have championed early childhood education. Lawmakers in Michigan, New York and New Mexico have made significant investments to expand access to preschool opportunities.  Additionally, Hawaii and Indiana have committed to funding public early childhood education programs for the first time this year. But states can’t do it alone. Federal support for early childhood education, such as this new competition, is crucial for supporting improvement in quality; helping states expand access; and providing care to all families and children.

Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction and will help states continue to innovate and strengthen homegrown early childhood programs. But this is only one piece of the puzzle. Initiatives such as the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, in addition to opportunities through the appropriations process, would enable expanded partnerships with states and communities to support quality early care and education programs. It’s time for Congress to embrace a bipartisan solution that we know will prepare students for success while forging a better path forward for children, families and our economic future.