Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) proposed an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) establishing federal-state partnership to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five.

The Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment (Strong Start) provides more than $30 billion in paid-for funding to states, with a state match, for high-quality, full-day preschool for four-year-old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

States then provide subgrants to entities like school districts and Head Start programs or child care providers so they can create or expand high-quality early learning programs. 

The amendment also supports new Early Head Start and child care partnerships to improve the quality of child care for infants and toddlers through age three.

Strong Start was previously introduced in the Senate as a stand-alone bill and represents a comprehensive approach birth through age 5.  We are grateful to Sen. Casey for introducing the Strong Start Amendment and continuing to keep the larger needs of increasing access to quality early childhood opportunities for children birth through 5 on the table.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated during a May 2014 hearing on Strong Start that, “the question is not whether but how best to make early childhood education available to the largest number of children.”  The bill currently before the U.S. Senate to reauthorize ESEA includes important early childhood provisions including a new grant program to support state efforts to coordinate existing programs.  Last month in an op-ed published by Roll Call, FFYF executive director Kris Perry reiterated the need for ESEA to go further in supporting educational opportunities for America’s youngest learners:

If the ESEA is to truly fulfill its goal of graduating students who are fully prepared for success in college and career, the law must recognize that education begins at birth. Congress would be wise to continue its bipartisan efforts and embrace the ESEA as a way to give our youngest children an early opportunity to succeed and enter the K-12 system ready to learn by approving a dedicated funding stream for early childhood education. The economic future of our country depends on it.

We support the Senate in their efforts to ensure ESEA includes the strongest language possible for early childhood education in ESEA.