Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.

Early Childhood Education

High quality early childhood education is one of the best investments our country can make.
students on floor with teacher NEA
Students in Ashlawn Elementary School, Virginia, show their teacher they are ready to learn!

Research shows that providing a high-quality education for children before they turn five yields significant medium- and long-term benefits for students. Children in early childhood education programs are:

  • less likely to repeat a grade
  • less likely to be identified as having special needs
  • more prepared academically for later grades
  • more likely to graduate from high school
  • higher earners in the workforce.

But providing high-quality education for young children is also about racial and social justice. Access to effective, diverse programs breaks down structural barriers that have prevented all children–particularly children of color and children from disadvantaged families–from achieving their full potential.

That is why NEA is proud to join 15 national organizations in releasing the Unifying Framework for the Early Childhood Education Profession. For the first time ever, early childhood educators (ECEs) have collectively and clearly defined the standards, qualifications, roles, supports, and compensation for members of their profession working with children birth through age 8.

Call to Action

The Unifying Framework for Early Childhood Education simultaneously calls for significant increases in federal and state investments in the early care and education system to ensure that young children, families, and communities are well-served by an effective, equitable, diverse, well-prepared, and well-compensated profession.

Each recommendation has been crafted through a lens of reducing the impact of structural barriers such as institutional racism, sexism, and classism to ensure that the profession honors the current workforce across all settings and reflects the diversity of the young children it serves.

Building on Our History

NEA has long advocated for access to early childhood education programs for students and for supporting the professional growth of early childhood educators. We have called for:

  • Free, publicly funded, quality kindergarten programs in all states.
  • Mandatory 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.
  • 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. 
NEA member Robin McNair
The most important piece in education is the child. I want to tell young people you are important, you are loved and cared for and I am here to help you reach your highest potential.
Quote by: Robin McNair, Restorative Practices Coordinator, Maryland State Education Association
Girl with megaphone in a group of people

Let’s invest in our future.

The safety and well-being of students and educators cannot be compromised as they return to in-person instruction. Congress should increase education funding to assist with reopening needs.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.