WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator Kaine joined eight of his Senate colleagues 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. Kaine has long-championed early childhood education, having worked with members of both parties as Governor to develop stronger Pre-K programs across Virginia and increase enrollment by 40 percent.
Building on the framework put forward by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address, the bill would focus 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.
"I have always been a believer that investing in early childhood education will pay huge dividends for our children and for our nation as a whole," said Kaine. "As Governor, I expanded the number of kids served by quality Pre-K programs by 40 percent and I am proud to join my colleagues today in strong support of a bill that will expand early childhood education access for children across the country. It is imperative that we continue to make investments in programs that help close the achievement gap between children of all backgrounds. Ninety percent of brain development occurs before a child’s fifth birthday, and we know that by instilling an early joy and respect for learning, we can maximize the potential of every child in our nation."
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.
The bill was introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Patty Murray (D-WA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by George Miller (D-CA), senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY).