Chairman Miller Announces New Legislation to Make Bold Investments in Early Learning

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, today introduced legislation that will prepare a new generation of children to arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed by making a historic $10 billion investment to leverage reform in the nation’s early learning programs.

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 embraces President Obama’s early education agenda. Building upon proposals included in his 2010 budget, the bill establishes the Early Learning Challenge Fund, a competitive grant program that challenges states to build a comprehensive, high-quality early learning system for children from birth through age five. The legislation is also fiscally responsible – it pays for itself by make changes to the nation’s federal student loan program that generate $87 billion in savings over 10 years.
 “Focusing on our youngest children is not only the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do for our future,” said Miller. “President Obama’s vision of ensuring critical early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five recognizes that we need effective early childhood programs, built on sound policies that place adequate focus and emphasis on supporting children from birth through age five, to ensure these children are prepared for kindergarten. It’s creates a seamless continuum of education and it’s a smart investment for our future competitiveness.”

“As a former teacher, I believe the best way to prepare our youth for success in their academic and professional lives is to provide every child with quality early education,” said U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), chair of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Second Education subcommittee. “This legislation will not only improve the quality of early education, it will also ensure that older children have access to more modern, healthy and environmentally friendly learning facilities. These are goals I have been working towards my entire career and I am extremely proud of this landmark legislation.”

“It is gratifying to see that the Early Learning Challenge Fund has been included in this bill,” said U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).  “President Obama recognizes that quality early education builds the necessary foundation to academic success.  Study after study indicates children who have access to quality early education are better prepared to succeed in school and in life – every child deserves this opportunity.”

Nearly 12 million children under age 5 regularly spend time in child care arrangements and children with working mothers spend on average 36 hours per week in such settings. But currently there are no federal quality standards for child care and families are left with a patchwork system of child care with mediocre quality. As a result, by age 4, children from low-income families are already 18 months behind most other 4 year-olds.

Investments in early education can yield enormous economic benefits down the line. Research shows that every dollar invested in high quality early education generates anywhere from $1.25 to $17 in returns.

The Early Learning Challenge Fund will increase the number of low-income children in high quality early learning settings by:

Investing $10 billion over 10 years in competitive grants to challenge states to build a comprehensive, high quality early learning system for children birth to age 5 that includes:  
  • Early learning standards reform;
  • Evidence-based program quality standards;
  • Enhanced program review and monitoring of program quality;
  • Comprehensive professional development;
  • Coordinated system for facilitating screenings for disability, health, and mental health needs;
  • Improved support to parents;
  • Process for assessing children’s school readiness; and
  • Using data to improve child outcomes.
Transforming early learning programs by insisting upon real change in state standards and practices:
  • Build an effective, qualified, and well-compensated early childhood workforce by supporting more effective providers with degrees in early education and providing sustained, intensive, classroom-focused professional development to improve the knowledge and skills of early childhood providers.
  • Best practices in the classroom by implementing research-based early learning standards aligned with academic content standards for grades K-3.
  • Promote parent and family involvement by developing outreach strategies to parents to improve their understanding of their children’s development.
  • Fund quality initiatives that improve instructional practices, programmatic practices, and classroom environment to promote school readiness. 
  • Quality standards reform that moves toward pre-service training requirements for early learning providers, and adopting best practices for teacher-child ratios and group size.
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act also makes landmark investments to make college more affordable and create a 21st century community college system – two strategies that, like early education, are critical to building a strong, lasting economic recovery. For more information on the legislation, click here.

For a fact sheet on the early learning challenge fund, click here.