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Letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan


Location: Washington, DC

Representatives Denny Rehberg and Rosa DeLauro, Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, this week sent a bipartisan letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan urging him to prioritize early childhood education when deciding how to spend $700 million in funds his Department received in the full year Continuing Resolution that was signed into law last month.

"The benefits of early childhood education are well established and broadly acknowledged," said Rehberg. "I'm going to continue to roll up my sleeves and work side by side with anyone who understands the importance of giving kids the tools they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive job market. This isn't about politics or party. This is about doing what's right for our kids."

"Early childhood care and education yields enormous economic dividends -- not only in terms of productivity and prosperity but in quality of life. Scrimping on these critical programs, and denying children access to a better education, hurts our kids now, and will stunt their ability, and our economy's ability, to grow and thrive in the years to come," said DeLauro. "The future of our children should not be a partisan issue, and Republicans and Democrats alike should work together to lay the foundation for a new future for our youngest citizens. That is why I am pleased to work with my colleague Denny Rehberg today-- it is no hyperbole to say that our very future is at stake here."

The fiscal year 2011 spending bill included language that demonstrated clear congressional support for spending allocated funds on improving early learning programs for our nation's youngest children. As leaders of the House panel that controls spending levels for the Department of Education, Rehberg and DeLauro are intent on seeing that this important congressional priority is reflected in the Race to the Top spending plan.

Working together across party lines, Rehberg and DeLauro urged Secretary Duncan to designate at least $350 million provided by Congress in FY2011 for activities pertaining to quality improvement in early childhood care and education.

The full text of the letter is below

Dear Secretary Duncan:

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, we are writing to you concerning the implementation of the $700 million appropriated in H.R. 1473 for grants authorized under section 14007 of division A of Public Law 111-5, as amended to include an assurance regarding state actions to improve early childhood care and education..

We agree with you that early childhood education should be one of our highest priorities and commend you for your leadership in calling attention to this critical issue. The inclusion of specific language related to early childhood education in the FY2011 continuing resolution demonstrates clear congressional intent that a portion of these funds be spent on improving early learning programs for our nation's youngest children. Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that the Department of Education may be considering a spending plan which would allow only a minimal share of this so-called "Race to the Top" funding to be allocated to States' efforts to improve the quality of early childhood learning.

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago has analyzed the body of studies documenting the cost-savings and benefits to society generated by investments in high quality early childhood education programs for at-risk young children prior to age 5. He estimates that for every dollar invested, the average annual return is 10%. Other estimates are as high as 17%.

The American business community has also shown strong support for the economic value associated with early childhood learning. In the fall of 2010, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a paper entitled "Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education". The report lays out the ways in which a high quality early childhood education can help break the cycle of poverty, as well as how meaningful investments in quality early learning programs for younger children have lasting effects that can reduce costs later in life while enhancing economic growth.

Secretary Duncan, in light of findings like these, we urge that you designate at least half of the $700 million provided by Congress in FY2011 for activities pertaining to quality improvement in early childhood care and education. As you are aware, the continuing resolution authorizing funding for "Race to the Top" activities states that none of these funds shall be made available prior to the submission of a detailed spending plan outlining the proposed competitions and priorities to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and the Senate. We have a strong interest in ensuring that the grant competition is designed with significant congressional input and that our shared goals are reflected in the final spending plan. Accordingly, we ask that you keep us abreast of your plans with regard to these funds on a weekly basis as you move forward in making decisions. Please coordinate with our respective staffs, Susan Ross at 225-3508 and Lisa Molyneux at 225-3481, to set up these conversations.

Thank you in advance for your attention to our request and for your leadership in helping to ensure that all children, but especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us, be given every opportunity to succeed.


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