Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to provide child care and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten. The Foundations for Success Act would provide pre-school children with a full range of services, leading to success in school and critical support for hard-pressed families nationwide.
"As we struggle to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, too many American children do not receive the high quality early care they need," said Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee. "The best way to both address our educational shortcomings and strengthen our economy over the long term is to invest in our children as early as we possibly can."
Sanders bill is backed by the nation's leading advocacy organization for children. "The Children's Defense Fund is pleased to support the Foundations for Success Act which sets forth a vision for addressing the crisis facing young children across the country who lack quality early childhood experiences," said Marian Wright Edelman, the organization's president.
"There is valuable evidence of the rate of return on investments in the early years. This bill will establish a high quality early care and education system that promotes children's social, emotional and physical development critical to their futures and the future of our nation," she added.
A competitive grant program would allow 10 states to launch the program. Additional states would be phased in after three years. In order to participate, states would have to establish high standards for early child care and education. Participating states also would have to ensure that qualified teachers participate in the program.
The United States has fallen behind many other nations in critical measurements of educational achievement. The U.S. ranks 33rd out of 36 nations in reading literacy, 27th in mathematical literacy, 22nd in science literacy, and 18th overall in secondary education, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
From the 1960s to 2006, the United States fell from first to 18th out of 24 industrialized nations in high school graduation rates. Closing this achievement gap could have increased our 2008 gross domestic product by $2.3 trillion.
Meanwhile, since 2000, the cost of child care has increased twice as fast at the median income of families with children.
In an increasing number of families, both parents work and often struggle to find quality, affordable care and education for their children, with a consequence that many fall up to two years behind their peers even before they enter first grade.
"In a society with our resources, it is unconscionable to that we do not properly invest in our children from the very first stages of their lives," Sanders said.