House and Senate Reintroduce the Strong Start for America’s Children Act
By Stephanie Schmit
On May 19, 2015, the U.S. House and Senate both reintroduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which was originally introduced in 2013. In the House, Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the bill, while Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) did so in the Senate. Both bills would establish a partnership between state and federal governments to equip states to improve and expand high-quality, full-day preschool programs for four-year-olds with the goal of increasing school readiness. Specifically, the Act would advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education access for young children 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 in high-quality preschool.
- Providing critical supports to increase the educational attainment of the early childhood workforce.
- Addressing the needs of low-income working families by allowing schools, Head Start, and child care settings to apply for funds to offer pre-kindergarten, as well as establishing expectations for the provision of full-day services and comprehensive health services.
- Providing for additional partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs to ensure that more vulnerable infants, toddlers, and their families have access to the comprehensive early education and family support services that are the hallmark of Head Start.
- Building on existing state structures by providing funding to help states expand access and improve the quality of existing state pre-kindergarten programs. Because a variety of early education settings are needed to meet the needs of different families, schools, Head Start programs, and community-based child care can compete for resources to provide quality care in communities that need it. States will also have the flexibility to use funds for quality improvements and to serve infants and toddlers.
High-quality early education experiences are widely recognized as key to preparing young children for school success and improving the lifetime employment and earnings of low-income children. It’s now up to members of Congress to move this legislation forward. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act would be transformational for children, families and early childhood systems. It would expand access to high-quality child care and early education services for the youngest, most vulnerable, low-income children and families in the country—providing the strong start that all children need.