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Bipartisan bill creates billions for early childhood education

President Van Roekel: ‘High-quality early childhood education represents one of the best investments our country can make’

WASHINGTON - November 13, 2013 -

Research shows that providing a high quality education for children before they turn five yields significant long-term benefits. Today lawmakers took a giant step towards providing early childhood education for all students, regardless of their zip code, by unveiling an ambitious, bipartisan bill calling for billions of dollars to expand preschool.

“The National Education Association and its more than 3 million members applaud both parties for investing in our students’ future by recognizing the importance of early childhood education,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “High-quality early childhood education represents one of the best investments our country can make. NEA believes it's a common sense investment we can't afford to pass up.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, an extensive bill that would legislate President Barack Obama's plan to expand preschool dramatically.

“Children who attend prekindergarten are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education, or, at an older age, get in trouble with the law,” said Van Roekel. “High- quality early childhood education and full-day kindergarten are fundamental to a student’s long term success and shouldn’t be determined by their parents’ income. Investing now in preschool programs will end up saving states and the federal government billions over decades—and most importantly, doing all we can to ensure all children have the tools they need for academic and social success, is the right thing to do.”

The early childhood education proposal is a 10-year initiative to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children from birth to age 5. The bill would fund preschool for 4-year old children from families earning below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), 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 percent of the FPL. States would provide subgrants to high-quality, local providers, including local educational agencies (LEAs) and community-based providers (such as child care and Head Start programs) that have partnerships with LEAs. The bill also authorizes a new Early Head Start partnership with child care to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers.

School readiness—and whether a school provides access to high quality early education—is one of the seven criteria that makes a public school great, according to the Great Public Schools (GPS) Indicators Framework NEA released in October. The seven GPS criteria include: 1) School Readiness; 2) Standards and Curriculum; 3) Conditions of Teaching and Learning; 4) Workforce Quality; 5) Accountability and Assessments; 6) Parent and Community Engagement; and 7) School Funding. Read more about the GPS Framework at

These indicators are a set of factors deemed critical to the success of our nation’s public schools and the next generation of Americans. Approving this bill would guarantee that students from low-earning families get the early enrichment programs that will help ensure their long term success.

“All of our nation’s students need and deserve a good start. Attending high quality early childhood programs is an important part of starting early and starting right,” said Van Roekel. “Today’s students will be the foundation of tomorrow’s economy. We need to make sure they have the necessary tools—and that starts with early childhood education.”


To learn more about the GPS Indicators visit

NEA School Readiness Policy Document ( PDF, 1 MB, 2 pgs.)

Follow NEA on Twitter @neamedia

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The National Education Association ( is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser,  202- 822-7823,