Expanding Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education

On Monday, I held a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Field Hearing on Partnering to Prepare: Expanding Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education because I believe every parent, regardless of income, should have access to high quality pre-kindergarten for their children.  I introduced the Prepare All Kids Act in both the 110th and 111th Congress to help all children prepare for school by investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten education that will give our children the best start in life.

The hearing was held at the Morrisville School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which has had success with its state-funded Pre-K Counts program.  At the hearing I was able to gather valuable information from six witnesses: Dr. Elizabeth Hammond Yonson, who is the Superintendent of the Morrisville School District; Melissa Bowman, who taught Pre-K in both Philadelphia and Morrisville and currently teaches kindergarten in the Morrisville School District;  Michelle Fina, who is the Branch Director of the Morrisville YMCA, which runs a Pre-K program; Dr. Deborah Ackerman, who is a professor at Rutgers University and has conducted research on the benfits of high-quality Pre-K programs; Joan Benso, who is the President & CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and; Todd Klunk, who is the Acting Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office of Child Development & Early Learning.

All of the witnesses provide years of experience either working directly with children in Pre-K programs, administering Pennsylvania’s Pre-K programs or conducting years of research on the benefits that pre-K programs provide.  Listening to these testimonies reinforced the need and importance  of ensuring that our children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, are able to access high quality early childhood education.  It is especially important as the HELP Committee moves toward the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also called “No Child Left Behind.”   

Beyond individual families, there are enormous benefits to communities and the economy, which will never remain competitive if we do no rethink how we educate our children.