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Murphy, Senate Help Committee Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to High-Quality Early Learning

(From Senator Murphy's Website)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Democratic Committee members to introduce the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, legislation to expand access to high-quality early learning programs for children from birth to age five. Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.).

Building on the framework put forward by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address, the bill focuses on four key goals: boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving low- and moderate-income families; increasing the quality of infant and toddler care offered by providers; supporting broad-scale quality improvements to child care programs; and encouraging continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.

The early childhood education proposal is a 10-year initiative to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children across the birth to age 5 continuum. The bill would fund preschool for 4-year old children from families earning below 200% of the federal poverty level, and encourage states to spend their own funds to support preschool for young children with family incomes above that income level. The legislation would establish a new federal-state partnership with formula funding for 4-year old preschool, with a state match, to all eligible states, based on each state’s proportion of 4-year olds under 200% of the federal poverty level. States would provide sub-grants to high-quality, local providers, including school districts and community-based providers, such as child care and Head Start programs. The bill also authorizes a new Early Head Start partnership with child care to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers.

“As the father of a 2 year old and a 5 year old, these days I'm particularly aware of the benefits early childhood education provides for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers,”said Murphy. “Countless studies have shown what parents already know: that these early years are critical for a child's development and success in the long run. This bill invests in essential early childhood education for children across the country, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make. I'm confident that the investments our bill makes will not only greatly improve a child's quality of life in the early years, but will also set them up for educational success as they get older.”

“Learning begins at birth, and the preparation for learning begins before birth. The investment we make as a nation in early learning will pay dividends for generations to come,” Harkin said. “Decades of research tell us that from infants and toddlers to preschoolers, early learning is the best investment we can make to prepare our children for a lifetime of success. Today, 39 states and the District of Columbia offer state-funded early learning programs, but without stronger investments, millions of children will continue to go without access to these crucial programs. No child should be denied this opportunity because of family income or where they live. Our bill will help to build on and accelerate the progress already made in states led by Democratic and Republican governors alike. Expanding access to high-quality preschool and infant and toddler care programs will be a much-needed hand-up for working parents and their children around the country.”

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