Early Childhood Education Bills Introduced in Congress

Several early childhood education bills were introduced recently in Congress.

A bipartisan bill, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act (H.R. 3461/S. 1697), was introduced November 13 in the House and Senate that would expand access to and quality of early learning programs for children. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and in the House by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Richard Hanna (R-NY). Hanna’s endorsement makes the bill bipartisan, although no Republicans in the Senate support the legislation.

The bill is in many ways similar to President Obama’s early childhood education plan that appeared in the administration’s FY 2014 budget request. The legislation would expand access to full-day preschool for 4-year-olds from low-to-moderate-income families through federal formula grants. Providers, including community-based, public school, and private school settings, would be eligible for funding as long as they are considered by the federal government to be high quality. The bill also calls for states to develop high-quality prekindergarten programs that, among other things, would require qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree for teachers. The bill does not put forward a proposal to pay for the preschool expansion, which is estimated to cost $34 billion in its first 5 years.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) also recently introduced a package of bills concerning early childhood education: the Parent Education and Family Engagement in Early Education Act (S. 1674) and the Early Childhood Care and Education Workforce Improvement Act (S. 1673). AACTE supports both bills.

The Parent Education and Family Engagement in Early Education Act would create a competitive grant program to allow early childhood education programs to supplement their services with parent education and family engagement programs. The bill would provide grants to states to award subgrants, on a competitive basis, to local education agencies which would, among other allowable uses, provide funds for professional development for child care and other early childhood program providers.

The Early Childhood Care and Education Workforce Improvement Act would provide funds for states to improve the qualifications of their early education workforce with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all early childhood educators have the necessary training, knowledge, and skills to offer high-quality early learning experiences. The bill envisions a strong role for institutions of higher education in this work.

AACTE staff will work with congressional offices as these bills are considered to promote high-quality preparation of early childhood educators.

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Jon Gentile

Associate Director of Government Relations, AACTE