In recent weeks, national organizations have submitted letters to the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and the U.S. Education (ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos on implementation of the new Preschool Development Grant (PDG) program. The First Five Years Fund and twenty other national organizations submitted a joint letter to the secretaries on April 26th, and shortly after the National Head Start Association shared comments with the agencies that aligns with the group letter while providing additional input specific to the role of Head Start under the new law. Both letters strongly recommend that HHS implement the PDGs as a competitive grant in order to achieve the high-quality standard the program was designed to help states establish and maintain, with a particular emphasis on prioritizing collaboration to share and elevate best practices and the efficient use of early learning resources.
The inclusion of PDGs under ESSA demonstrates a deliberate effort to increase the connection between the early childhood education (ECE) and K-12 systems in support of a continuum of learning, which builds off state and local efforts to improve and expand early learning initiatives. Grantees would benefit from support to improve the coordination, quality and access of ECE for low- and moderate-income children from birth to age five, ultimately improving parent choice and supporting kindergarten-readiness. The bipartisan passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015 paved the way for the PDG program. To learn more about how states are leveraging ESSA to bolster early learning, click here to see FFYF’s resource, Early Learning in State ESSA Plans Implementation Snapshot: How States are Using the Law.