Center for American Progress

RELEASE: With ESEA Reauthorization Underway, Coalition of Education Advocates Unveil Proposal to Expand High-Quality Early Education in Rewrite of Historic Education Law
Press Release

RELEASE: With ESEA Reauthorization Underway, Coalition of Education Advocates Unveil Proposal to Expand High-Quality Early Education in Rewrite of Historic Education Law

Center for American Progress, American Federation of Teachers, Children’s Defense Fund, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Education Association, and National Center on Learning Disabilities unveil proposal to include new title for high-quality early education in ESEA

Washington, D.C. — As Congress moves forward with rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, a coalition of education advocates—including the Center for American Progress, the American Federation of Teachers, the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Education Association, and the National Center on Learning Disabilities—today unveiled a proposal for adding a new title to the law to expand preschool, invest in high-quality early childhood education, and make full-day kindergarten more widely available for families.

“Enacted as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has brought tremendous change to our schools and helped level the playing field for all students—no matter their parents’ income or ZIP code,” said Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress. “Decades of research have shown how important high-quality early education is for narrowing the school readiness gap and putting children on a pathway to a lifetime of learning and career success. The reauthorization of ESEA presents a rare opportunity for Congress to help our nation meet the goal of a high-quality education for all students.”

“Fifty years ago, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act improved opportunities for public school children in the United States—in particular, Title I leveled the playing field for poor students. Today, we have the chance to make ESEA better again by adding a new title that makes a significant commitment to early childhood education,” said American Federation of Teachers, or AFT, President Randi Weingarten. “The value of early childhood education is undeniable. It helps ensure kids, especially poor kids, have a strong start. And it yields a strong return on the investment: Every dollar we invest in early childhood programs saves us up to $8 in the future. This new title would ensure fewer poor children fall through the cracks by providing access to high-quality early childhood education, and it’s an investment our nation can’t afford not to make.”

“Principals who lead our nation’s elementary schools that serve more than 35 million children support an expansion of high-quality early childhood education to ensure that every child will have access to impactful learning opportunities as early as possible,” said National Association of Elementary School Principals, or NAESP, Executive Director Gail Connelly. “This vision is necessary to address all students’ developmental or social and emotional well-being, which goes hand-in-hand with academic success, especially during the foundational years of a child’s life from prekindergarten to the third grade. The proposal sets forth an appropriate and necessary plan for congressional leaders as part of a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

“Expanding access to early childhood education is paramount to ensuring equal opportunity for all children regardless of the ZIP code in which they live,” said National Education Association, or NEA, President Lily Eskelsen García. “In fact, we fundamentally believe access to high-quality early education programs is an indicator of student and school success, which is why we are urging Congress to include as part of its ESEA reauthorization process high-quality learning opportunities for children from birth to age five. This would go a long way toward fulfilling America’s promise of equal opportunity for each student.”

“The National Center for Learning Disabilities, or NCLD, is pleased to support expanding preschool programs to include early screening for learning and attention issues, which affect one in five children across the nation. Yet, because these learning issues are not immediately visible, they often go unnoticed for years, making early screening an essential component of any early education program. By providing professionals with the tools and information they need to identify children who are struggling with early math and reading skills, we can set children on a path to success,” stated James H. Wendorf, Executive Director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

The coalition’s proposed new title of ESEA would expand access to preschool for the nation’s poorest children, using a federal-state cost-sharing partnership as states ramp up their programs. The proposal would provide for coordination and collaboration between early childhood providers and schools, ensuring that providers and districts work with school principals to ensure coordination of services and alignment of standards, and put in place quality benchmarks and learning standards to ensure quality for children and families and to maximize taxpayer investment.

The proposal advocates for developing a highly qualified workforce, expanding access for infants and toddlers, and expanding programs to cover a full day of learning both in preschool and kindergarten. The coalition proposes funding this important program by closing corporate tax loopholes, which have received support from congressional Democrats and Republicans alike.

Click here to read “A Plan to Expand Preschool in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”