Allentown, PA- Amid new attempts in the Republican budget to gut early learning programs, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) pushed for increased Head Start funding in the upcoming budget. Even as evidence that early learning leads to better outcomes for kids continues to mount, the newly released GOP budget could slash funding for essential programs like Head Start. Casey is the author of the Senate’s leading universal pre-k bill, the Prepare All Kids Act. Casey was joined by educators to make the case for continuing to invest in early learning, and tour an Early Head Start class.
“An investment in early learning opportunities is critical to our children’s future success. Head Start and Early Head Start are shining examples of what these opportunities can provide our children,” said Senator Casey. “Unfortunately, the budget that Senate Republicans have advanced makes dramatic cuts to Head Start and early learning, as well as other initiatives that support our most vulnerable children. That is why I have introduced two bills, the Prepare All Kids Act and the Continuum of Learning Act, to ensure that our children have a good start and a successful continuity of learning.”
Long-term scientific research has proven the benefits of investing in early childhood, including investing in high-quality early learning. Children who attend high-quality prekindergarten are more successful in school, more likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to become productive adults who contribute to the U.S. economy. Moreover, research shows that for every dollar invested in high quality prekindergarten, we can save as much as $7 in other costs, including crime, welfare and remedial and special education.
The Prepare All Kids Act will:
- Support states in providing at least one year of voluntary high quality prekindergarten to all children, with an emphasis on children from families with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level and children with special needs.
- Ensure high quality learning by requiring prekindergarten programs to utilize a research-based curriculum that supports children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and individual learning styles.
- Ensure a high quality learning environment by limiting classroom size to a maximum of 20 children and children-to-teacher ratios to no more than 10 to 1.
- Ensure high quality teaching by requiring that prekindergarten teachers have baccalaureate degrees (within 6 years), with support for teacher educational development.
- Provide designated funding for much-needed programs serving infants and toddlers, ages birth through three.
- Meet the needs of children and working parents by providing specific funding that states can use to expand programs to full-day and year-round.
- Support and reinforce the importance of other early childhood programs such as Head Start and child care programs by maintaining existing funding levels for those programs.
- Ensure continued prekindergarten program quality by requiring states to develop and enforce a monitoring plan.
- Support the critical role of parents in the education of their young children by encouraging parental involvement in programs and assisting families in getting the supportive services they may need.
The Continuum of Learning Act updates the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) to strengthen connections between existing early learning programs and the elementary grades. This bill helps educators from Head Start, child care, other early childhood education programs, and elementary schools work together so young children have a successful continuity of learning and development that sets a strong foundation throughout the K-12 school years and beyond.
The Continuum of Learning Act:
- Asks states to review and revise their early learning guidelines for birth-to-kindergarten and their K-3 standards to ensure that standards address not only the academic content areas but also the areas of social and emotional development, physical and health development, and approaches to learning that make academic achievement more likely (based on a recommendation of the National Research Council 2008 report)
- Further encourages professional development of teachers in community early childhood education settings and in school settings, including joint professional development, and provides professional development to elementary school principals and other administrators in child development and appropriate teaching practices (currently an allowable but under-utilized use of ESEA funds)
- Helps elementary schools work with early childhood programs such as Head Start to create stronger collaborations and better transition policies and practices. Under the act, states plan the creation or revision of teacher certification or licensure in the early elementary grades and younger to reflect the specialized knowledge and skills to teach children in the birth-to-8 age span; and,
- Encourages greater coordination and collaboration with early childhood programs for schools in need of school improvement.