The First Five Years Fund greatly appreciates the swift progress being made to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This critical piece of legislation is essential to ensuring that our students are college and career ready and fully prepared for later success in life. But, we can’t achieve this goal as a nation if our children don’t begin school with a strong foundation built early in life.
While we are thrilled to see congressional action on the bill, we strongly urge Congress and the Administration to ensure that early childhood education is adequately recognized in ESEA. Since the last authorization of ESEA, a wealth of cognitive and development research has proven over and over again that quality early childhood education has a profound impact on a child’s ability to walk into a classroom ready to learn and succeed. Brain scientists, educators, economists, and public health experts agree that the foundation for success begins at birth and is built through age 5. It’s time for the federal government’s most critical K-12 policy to adequately recognize that education starts well before a child steps foot in a kindergarten classroom.
We recognize that a massive federal investment in early education, as laid out in various proposals, is not likely to be a part of ESEA – ESEA is, however, a real opportunity to help pave the way for a stronger federal partnership. The First Five Years Fund would be heartened to see Congress and the Administration use ESEA as an opportunity to do two things:
- Take a true step forward on more fully integrating early education in ESEA and to recognize state leadership.
- Use early learning, as was the case in 2014, as an area of bipartisan agreement in what could potentially be a very difficult bill.
Early learning is not a new concept in ESEA. In fact, there are dozens of references to “early childhood” in the existing law. Momentum for early learning has grown significantly since then – with governors, mayors and private sector leaders all prioritizing grater investments in early childhood education. They recognize that high-quality early learning programs are closely tied to college and career readiness. We also know for sure that early childhood education is one of the few issues on which both sides of the aisle have shown bipartisan agreement in the recent past.
The past few years have resulted in significant federal, state and local action on early childhood education and we’re excited to see this momentum continue so early in 2015. From meaningful integration into the K-12 education system to exploring new funding mechanisms to support state and local work in early learning, the time is ripe to ensure that early childhood education is once again prioritized – this time in the reauthorization of ESEA.
About the First Five Years 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. www.ffyf.org