U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Richard Hanna today announced legislation to expand access to high-quality early learning programs for children from birth to age five. The Strong Start for America's Children Act focuses on four key goals: boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving low- and moderate-income families; increasing the quality of infant and toddler care offered by providers; supporting broad-scale quality improvements to child care programs; and encouraging continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.
"If we expect our children to walk through the doors of our colleges and universities tomorrow, and succeed in our economy in the years ahead -- we need universal pre-k," said Senator Gillibrand. "High quality early learning leads to strong cognitive, social, emotional and language development -- key skills for a bright future. But for millions of children in struggling families -- that is a chance they will never get -- through no fault of their own, and for no other reason, than they were born into a life of less opportunity. The block you live on should not determine what chances you get in life. That's why we need to make the investment today to bring quality, affordable, pre-k to every child in America."
"High-quality early learning guarantees a reduction in spending on entitlements, welfare and incarceration," Rep. Hanna said. "It also lowers obesity rates, helping to reduce healthcare costs. By focusing on early education we can begin to break the back of intergenerational poverty, producing more taxpayers and a more competitive America through a better-educated, growing middle class. We cannot guarantee every child equal success in life, but we can promise them the opportunity to be successful. I hope this effort is the beginning of a sustained bipartisan conversation on how expanding access to early education will make our economy more competitive and ensure each child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. One in four children starts their life in poverty. This bill will help ensure their lives do not end in poverty."
Research has consistently shown that high quality early learning programs improve cognitive, social, emotional, and language development, which are necessary skills for life. In addition, research shows that lowest-income and disadvantaged children are the least likely to participate in preschool programs. And children from middle-class families are only slightly more likely to participate. Preschool opportunities for 3-year-olds appear to be a particular challenge for some middle- income families. Among 3-year-olds, 34 percent of children in families earning $50,000 to $60,000 participate in preschool programs, compared to 42 percent of children in families earning less than $10,000.
The Strong Start for America's Children Act would help more children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. It would establish a federal-state partnership to provide access to high-quality Pre-K programs for all low-income and moderate-income children. It also increases the quality of infant and toddler care in center-based settings while improving Child Care Development Block Grants. Senator Gillibrand and Rep. Hanna believe that by making sure America's children have a strong start we can ensure America has a strong future.