Washington, DC- As an effort to pass a critical reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act moves forward, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has sent a letter to the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) pushing for substantial investments in early learning in any ESEA reauthorization bill. Casey’s letter, which was joined by 44 Senators, was addressed to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and made the case that significant funding of early learning programs would be critical to gaining bipartisan support.
The Senators wrote, “The ESEA has a long tradition of bipartisan federal-state-local partnerships in education, particularly for disadvantaged children. As reauthorization moves through the legislative process, we urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to support a stronger partnership that increases access to high-quality early learning programs and strengthens the continuum of education from infancy through college and career.”
The full text of the Senators’ letter can be seen below:
Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray,
As you work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we urge you to include significant new investments to support quality early childhood learning programs that build on the infrastructure already in place in current law and in states and communities. Expanding high-quality early learning programs that prepare young children to succeed is essential to achieving the ESEA goals of ensuring that all children graduate from high school, college and career ready.
Since the last ESEA reauthorization, a growing number of states have established or expanded early learning opportunities for children from birth through age five. Governors from both parties and across the nation have pushed for expansion of early childhood education, particularly for disadvantaged three and four year olds, because the return on investment is clear. Children who have the advantage of early learning go on to be healthy, wealthy, and productive adults. In 2014, 28 states increased their investment in early learning. This year, governors across the political spectrum have continued to recognize both the need and the effectiveness of focusing on our youngest learners by proposing increased funding for early learning in their budgets.
But State governments can’t do it alone. Last year, 35 states applied for the Preschool Development Grant program to facilitate the creation, improvement or expansion of their pre-K programs for our most at-risk children, including Tennessee and Washington. Congress has recognized the critical need for increased investments in early childhood education and has supported these efforts the last two years through appropriations. To ensure ongoing progress is not lost, States need a funding source that can provide sustained investments, helping build and expand quality school-, community-based, and mixed delivery early learning initiatives.
The ESEA has a long tradition of bipartisan federal-state-local partnerships in education, particularly for disadvantaged children. As reauthorization moves through the legislative process, we urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to support a stronger partnership that increases access to high-quality early learning programs and strengthens the continuum of education from infancy through college and career. We look forward to working with you to achieve that goal.