The Strong Start for America's Children Act
The Strong Start for America's Children Act provides for universal access to high-quality pre-kindergarten services for low-income children through a federal-state partnership and expands quality child care for infants and toddlers. Companion bills were introduced in the House and Senate by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative George Miller (D-CA), and Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY) in November 2013. Strong Start includes important investments in programs, including:
- Universal Pre-Kindergarten: Through a formula program to states grants would be allotted for the purpose of providing universal, voluntary pre-kindergarten. States will distribute funds to local entities – which may include districts, schools, Head Start programs or licensed child care providers – that meet high-quality standards. Funds would be disbursed based on a state’s share of four-year olds living at or below 200% of the poverty line.
- Preschool Development Grants: For states not receiving preschool formula grants, competitive grants would be available to help states increase capacity to position them for preschool formula grants and to improve states’ systems of early childhood.
- Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: Early Head Start providers, which serve infants and toddlers, would partner with local center-based and family child care to improve the quality of their infant and toddler care. Funds would be allocated to states based on their share of infants and toddlers living at or below poverty.
- Home Visiting: The bill expresses support for continuing voluntary home visiting programs to promote maternal and child health, improve school readiness, prevent child abuse and neglect, and to coordinate resources and supports for families.
The components of the bill would advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education systems across the country by:
- Setting clear expectations for high-quality services including high staff qualifications and developmentally appropriate and evidence-based curricula and learning environments.
- Providing critical supports to increase the educational attainment of the early childhood workforce.
- Addressing the needs of low-income working families by allowing for the provision of pre-kindergarten services in schools, Head Start and child care settings and establishing expectations for the provision of full-day services and comprehensive health services.
- Providing for partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs to ensure that more vulnerable infants and toddlers have access to the comprehensive early education and family support services that are the hallmark of Head Start.
To date, no further legislative action has been taken.