WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) 81-17, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the first time since 2001. The Senate-approved legislation includes historic support and funding for early childhood education, an issue that continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support from members in both Houses of Congress.

“The reauthorization of ESEA is an opportunity to acknowledge what researchers and scientists have been stressing for some time now: education begins at birth,” said First Five Years Fund 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. We’re incredibly grateful to the Senate for supporting early learning in this bill, and we look forward to a conference process with the House and the Obama administration that maintains these gains, including the dedicated funding stream within ESEA to support quality early childhood education programs.”

The ECAA harnesses the potential that early learning has to provide more meaningful and impactful educational opportunities for the nation’s economically disadvantaged families. Numerous peer-reviewed, high-quality research studies demonstrate early learning’s powerful impact on kindergarten readiness rates, academic outcomes, and later life success. Governors across the country – Republicans and Democrats alike – are making early childhood education a priority as they draw up budgets and develop legislative initiatives for the coming year.  And educators, parents and families, business leaders, law enforcement officials and military leaders recognize that now is the time to invest.

The ECAA appropriately recognizes these advantages by supporting state and school district efforts to improve early learning program quality, through permitting more flexible state and local use of federal resources, and by clarifying eligible ESEA uses for early childhood initiatives. It also encourages better coordination and alignment of early learning initiatives with elementary school.

In particular, FFYF supports the ECAA’s Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants program, which will help states more efficiently and effectively use existing Federal resources to improve, strengthen, and expand existing high-quality early childhood education, strengthen program quality, and expand access to high quality early learning opportunities. This well designed initiative and the ECAA’s other early learning provisions will make an important, life-long difference for the nation’s students and their families.

Earlier this week, FFYF’s Perry penned a letter to the bill’s authors, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) endorsing the legislation and commending the two education leaders for their commitment to early learning.

The reauthorization of ESEA offers a critical opportunity for Congress to continue the bipartisan momentum building behind early childhood education across the nation. In 2014, 40 states and D.C. increased funding for pre-K programs by nearly $120 million, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. There is a clear, growing demand for early childhood education.

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. ffyf.org