Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Ready to Learn Act, which would help prepare children for kindergarten by providing funding for states through a competitive process to establish and administer voluntary preschool programs. This legislation would also support governors who want to build on pre-existing early childhood systems including schools, child care entities, Head Start programs, or other community providers of pre-kindergarten programs.
"As a former preschool teacher, I've seen first-hand the impact that high-quality early childhood education has on the success of our children," said Senator Patty Murray. "When children enter kindergarten ready to learn, they are well on their way to success in school and beyond. And if we want our students to come out of schools ready to compete and win in the 21st century economy, we need to make sure they start off on the right track. This bill will help families and communities across the country provide their children with the strong educational start they deserve."
"Every child in Minnesota and across the country deserves the opportunity that early education affords them," said Senator Al Franken. "Study after study confirms that early childhood education has an incredible return on investment: it brings down crime rates, improves health outcomes, raises high school graduation rates, and reduces dependence on welfare. As we make tough budget decisions, investing in early childhood education is one of the smartest choices we can make."
"As a father, the importance of early education is a personal issue," said Senator Mark Begich. "Ensuring our children are poised to thrive is critical to our success as a nation and that is why I am proud to co-sponsor this bill to help states and communities across the country make it easier for families to afford pre-K programs."
"Business leaders, economists, and educators agree that expanding access to early childhood education is one of the smartest things we can do as a nation to ensure our economic future," said Senator Mazie K. Hirono. "Quality early education sets the stage for success in school and in life. The Ready to Learn Act and other proposals can support states like Hawaii's efforts to strengthen preschool opportunities for our keiki."
During Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama supported education proposals that would make preschool programs available to every child in the United States.
"Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America," President Obama said during the address. "Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on -- by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime."
Research has shown that the early years are critical in a child's development and that pre-kindergarten education offers benefits extending through the first years of school and beyond. Children who attend high-quality pre-K programs are less likely to be held back a grade or to need special education, and they are more likely to graduate from high school. They also have higher earnings as adults and are less likely to become dependent on welfare or involved in crime.
The Ready to Learn Act will help prepare children for kindergarten by providing funding for states to establish high-quality early learning programs to promote school readiness for four-year-olds in their state. Funding will be allocated to states through a competitive process to establish and administer voluntary preschool programs, while allowing governors to build on pre-existing early childhood systems. Schools, child care entities, Head Start programs, or other community providers of pre-kindergarten programs are all eligible for sub-grants.