Early childhood education has become a central theme. The National Governors Association has commissioned a set of recommendations and has developed model legislation that is being pursued in six states. During the president’s State of the Union message last January he announced his commitment to universal Pre-K by supporting the development of several programs and funding via a tax on tobacco.
On Wednesday, November 13, Senate Chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Tom Harkin (D-IA), several other Senators, the House ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee George Miller (D-CA), Republican Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY), and others announced their introduction of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. It is significant to note that Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, White House officials, and officials from the Department of Health and Human Services addressed the need for and their support of this legislation.
Visit the HELP website to see a summary from Chairman Harkin and a copy of the draft legislation.
In brief, the measure proposes to cover children whose families live at or below 200% of the poverty line to have access to a program for four year olds. If passed, the Act would support the idea of these education programs having certified teachers using curriculums that have been based on evidence and assessments that inform instruction and provide for program accountability. While the Administration supports this initiative, it is not the universal program.
It is expected that the Senate HELP committee will hold hearings on this specific legislation, while the House education committee has announced their intent to hold a hearing on the topic and about the effectiveness of existing federal programs.
While it is unlikely that this legislation will become law this year, it is likely to be a marker and a discussion point that will be included in any discussion on the rewriting of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Community Services Child Care Block Grant, and perhaps other reauthorizations.
Richard Long is the director of government relations at the International Reading Association.