Early Childhood Education
The NEA-supported, bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act (S. 2452/H.R. 3461), introduced in the House and Senate on November 13, 2013, would promote high-quality learning opportunities for children from birth to age 5. This vital legislation would help states fund high-quality prekindergarten for 4-year olds from low-income families; 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. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “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… [It] is the right thing to do.”
Research and Recommendations
Early childhood education: one of the best investments our country can make.
Long-Term Benefits of Early Childhood Education
Research shows that providing a high quality education for children before they turn five yields significant long-term benefits.
One well-known study, the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, found that individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. Young people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, and have longer marriages.
Other studies, like The Abecedarian Project, show similar results. Children in quality preschool programs are less likely to repeat grades, need special education, or get into future trouble with the law.
Early childhood education makes good economic sense, as well. In Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return, a high-ranking Federal Reserve Bank official pegs its return on investment at 12 percent, after inflation.
NEA Is Committed to Improving Early Childhood Education
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. NEA recommends, among other things:
- Free, publicly funded, quality kindergarten programs in all states.
- Mandatory full-day kindergarten. Just 14 states require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten.
- Optional free, publicly funded, quality "universal" pre-kindergarten programs for all three- and four-year-old children whose parents choose to enroll them. Three states are moving toward such a program - Georgia, New York and Oklahoma.
- Federal funds to make pre-kindergarten programs available for all three- and four-year-old children from disadvantaged families. State and local governments should provide the additional funds necessary to make pre-kindergarten available for all three- and four-year old children.
- Dedicated funding for early childhood education. Public schools should be the primary provider of pre-kindergarten programs, and additional funding must be allocated to finance them in the same manner as K-12 schools.
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NEA POLICY BRIEFS
- Early Childhood Education and School Readiness (2008) (PDF, 202 KB, 4 pgs)
- Full-Day Kindergarten: A Missing Link in the Prekindergarten through Third Grade (P-3) Continuum for Many Students (2015) (PDF, 124 KB, 2 pgs)
- Full-Day Kindergarten Helps Close Achievement Gaps (2015) (PDF, 198 KB, 4 pgs)
- Raising the Standards for Early Childhood Professionals Will Lead to Better Outcomes (2010) (PDF, 212 KB, 4 pgs)