Statement from First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Kris Perry on Senate FY 15 Appropriations for early learning:

FFYF applauds the work done by the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies during today’s markup of the fiscal year 2015 Appropriations Bill. A funding increase of more than $348 million for early learning, including $145 million for Head Start, $100 million for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and $100 million for Preschool Development Grants, adds to the incredible national momentum to improve and expand access to high-quality early childhood education in America. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to finish the appropriations process and prioritize investments in early learning for children birth to age 5.

Last year’s agreement on Labor-HHS Appropriations provided an increase of $1.4 billion to restore sequester cuts, improve quality, and expand access to high quality care for very young children; this year’s increases will build on that investment. We are pleased that Congress has taken note of the crucial value that early childhood education provides and has chosen to invest in kids. During today’s markup, Senator and Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Barbara Mikulski said, “The significant investment in early childhood education gives children a fair shot.” Senator and Chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Tom Harkin added his praise saying, “I am particularly encouraged that the bill directs funding to investments in high-quality early childhood care and education, which have been proven to have positive, lasting effects on children and families.”

This is a step in the right direction that benefits not only our youngest learners, but our entire country. Research from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that early childhood education is one of the best economic investments we can make. When high-quality early learning for disadvantaged children starts from birth, the economy grows with a 7-10 percent return on investment—per child, per year—to taxpayers through improved education, health and social outcomes and decreased social spending.

Even more, early childhood education is an issue that governors, mayors, federal and state candidates, business leaders and law enforcement officials are supporting – in red and blue states alike. Just this year, we’ve seen gubernatorial candidates in Maryland, Arkansas and Texas championing early childhood education. Lawmakers in New York, Vermont and New Mexico made significant investments to expand access to preschool opportunities.  Additionally, Hawaii and Indiana committed to funding public early childhood education programs for the first time this year. But these states can’t do it alone. Federal investments in early childhood education are crucial for supporting improvement in quality, helping states expand access and providing care to all families and children – regardless of income.

We praise the work that was done today, but we need to look toward a more sustainable, long-term solution for preparing our youngest learners for the rigors of the 21st century workforce. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act would establish a new federal partnership to help states and communities improve and expand high-quality preschool programs for children birth to five. Now is the time to make this investment to ensure the greatest success for all of our children.