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WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act, a bill that would establish an Early Learning Challenge Fund to help states build and strengthen systems of early learning, so that more low-income children ages zero to five have access to high-quality early learning and development opportunities that prepare them for success in school and beyond.

“Investing in early learning pays off.  Economists have estimated a return on investment for early childhood education programs of approximately 16 percent,” said Senator Casey.  “This legislation will establish a one-time investment to help states raise the bar on program quality and provide more children with early access to high-quality education.”

“Early education is a sound investment with a proven return on investment, which is why the business community supports early learning initiatives like the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act that Senator Casey is introducing,” said Jack Brennan, former Chairman and CEO of the Vanguard Group and member of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission.  “This bill calls upon states, in partnership with private entities, to invest in improving the quality of early learning.”

According to a new brief released today by the Pew Center on the States, proven early childhood programs, like high-quality pre-kindergarten, are helping states like Pennsylvania close the educational achievement gap, which helps produce the qualified workers that the state—and our nation—need for a prosperous future.  In order to ensure these improvements continue, Senator Casey introduced the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act.  Specifically it will:

• Help states raise the bar on program quality, improve workforce qualifications and create a seamless system of early care and learning that working families and children can rely upon.

• Make funds available on a competitive basis to states that have demonstrated the greatest progress in establishing a system of high-quality early learning, as well as states that demonstrate a commitment to building a high-quality system of early learning.

• Give priority to states that establish public-private partnerships and that leverage federal child care funds for the purposes of the Act.

• Require that states provide a matching rate of 15 percent and an assurance that new funding will supplement and not supplant current funding used to support early learning programs.

The Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act is cosponsored by U.S Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Al Franken (D-MN). 

The bill is endorsed by the Center for Law and Social Policy, Children’s Defense Fund, First Five Years Fund, First Focus, National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Women’s Law Center, Pre-K Now and Save the Children.


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