The nation’s largest education law will also now include a $250 million Preschool Development Grant program 

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the first time since 2001.  The measure, which passed the U.S. House last week 359-64 and now heads to President Obama’s desk for signature, includes historic support to states for high quality early childhood education.

“There is no way to overstate the significance of Congress including such important early learning provisions in ESSA,” said First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Kris Perry. “Better connection between early learning and K-12 education is a positive step in building a strong pipeline for our nation’s children. And the Preschool Development Grants program will provide invaluable support to states, communities, and programs working to prepare low-income children for kindergarten and their later development and learning.”

“The fact is, a child’s education begins long before kindergarten, and this bill reflects that,” added Perry.  “We’re incredibly grateful to Congress and the Obama Administration for ensuring that America’s youngest learners are included in our nation’s most important education law.”

The Preschool Development Grants program’s comprehensive needs assessment and focus on promoting close collaboration within communities, including leveraging existing State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Education and Care, will ensure existing federal, state, and local resources are used effectively to promote quality and parental choice. Coupled with the program’s other core provisions, including encouraging thoughtful strategic planning and promoting sharing of best practices among early childhood education program providers, will make a positive difference for the nation’s youngest learners and their families.

FFYF also appreciates the ESSA’s emphasis on encouraging greater early learning and elementary education alignment. The ESSA will meaningfully support state and local efforts to strengthen standards alignment; enhance local flexibility and decision making by making early learning an allowable use within important ESSA programs; support early childhood focused professional development for elementary teachers and school leaders; and appropriately calls on states and districts to evaluate their local needs and embed early learning within their Title I plans. These and other early childhood provisions will ensure states and communities take a holistic and impactful approach to meeting young children’s needs.

The overwhelming research demonstrates early learning’s powerful impact on kindergarten readiness rates, academic outcomes, and later life success.  Governors across the country – Republicans and Democrats alike – have made early childhood education a top priority. The National Governors Association’s (NGA) endorsement of ESSA marks the first time in 20 years that the powerhouse organization has endorsed any piece of legislation.  AND American voters want to see a greater federal investment supporting these state efforts on early learning, according to FFYF’s national bipartisan poll, released in October.


About the First Five Year Fund: The First Five Years Fund 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.