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Letter to Congress on the Strong Start for America’s Children Act (S. 1697/H.R. 3461)

November 18, 2013

Dear Senator/Representative:  

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we urge you to co-sponsor and support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act (S. 1697/H.R. 3461), which promotes high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth until age 5. This vitally important legislation would establish a new federal-state partnership to accelerate progress already underway and help states fund high-quality prekindergarten for 4-year olds from low-income families (up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently $23,550 for a family of four); encourage states to support prekindergarten for 4-year-olds from moderate-income families; and encourage learning opportunities for even younger children—for example, through partnerships with Early Head Start programs.  

The first years of a child’s life—when the brain is still forming—are a vital window of opportunity. Research shows that children who attend high-quality prekindergarten programs are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education, or get in trouble with the law later on. Such quality programs play a critical role in putting a child on the path to success—in school and in life—so every child should have access, not just children whose parents can afford to pay.  

High-quality prekindergarten programs also bring enormous economic benefits. They can pay for themselves in as little as one year and, over decades, save the states and the federal government billions of dollars. Investments in high-quality preschool can carry eventual benefit-to-cost ratios as high as 8-to-1. (Source: Economic Policy Institute) 

NEA’s members strongly believe that prekindergarten should be provided primarily by public entities whenever possible. Criteria should be designed to ensure program quality—including application of the same non-discrimination and non-proselytizing requirements to public and private prekindergarten that currently exist in federal laws such as Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)—and preserve the principle of church and state separation when it comes to the use of federal funding.  

Investing in our youngest children is investing in our nation’s future. We urge you to support and co-sponsor this groundbreaking legislation. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations