Alexander: “No National School Board for 3- and 4-Year Olds”
Proposes Republican plan to give states flexibility with the $20 billion the federal government is already spending on early childhood education
Thursday, May 15, 2014Liz Wolgemuth 202-228-4729
“Under my proposal, in Tennessee, we’d have about $440 million a year. If we were given this kind of flexibility, we could increase the vouchers for child care from 39,000 to 139,000; or the state-funded voluntary preschool program, from 18,000 4-year olds to 109,000; or we could expand Head Start, from 17,000 children to 56,000; we could create Centers of Excellence—otherwise leave to Tennessee to figure out what works best for Tennesseans.”
Washington, D.C., May 15 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate education committee, voted Wednesday against moving out of committee Senate Democrats’ early education proposal, saying “it would, in effect, create a national school board for 3- and 4-year-olds.”
He offered a proposal to give states the option of using up to $20 billion that the federal government is already spending on early education “and allow states to use it in the way that best suits their needs.”
“Under my proposal, in Tennessee, we’d have about $440 million a year,” Alexander said. “If we were given this kind of flexibility, we could increase the vouchers for child care from 39,000 to 139,000; or the state-funded voluntary preschool program, from 18,000 4-year olds to 109,000; or we could expand Head Start, from 17,000 children to 56,000; we could create Centers of Excellence—otherwise leave to Tennessee to figure out what works best for Tennesseans.”
Alexander said: “The Democrat bill that’s being proposed today would, in effect, create a national school board for 3- and 4-year-olds. It would spend $27 billion in new funding over 5 years with Washington making the decisions about how states should run their preschool programs. It includes requirements I don’t think the federal government has ever even attempted with elementary and secondary education.”
Although states would be required to pay half of the program’s cost after 8 years, the Democrats’ proposal would make decisions for states on such details as teacher salaries, class sizes, staff qualifications and length of the school day. “Never before, not even in No Child Left Behind, has the federal government told school districts from Maryville to Memphishow to run their schools in such detail,” Alexander said.
Under Alexander’s proposal, the $22 billion that the federal government today across 45 different programs would instead be given to the states to use in the way that best serves their children.
He recalled the testimony of Superintendent of Louisiana John White who said that the “greatest barrier to achieving these conditions [that we want in early childhood education] – no less than financial resources themselves – is the fragmentation of our country’s early childhood education system….You can’t claim to be providing full access and full choice when you have separate centers, separate funding streams, separate sets of regulations that literally require no coordination in the offering of seats, even within the same neighborhood.”
Under Alexander’s proposal, White would be able to take Louisiana’s share of the more than $22 billion that the federal government spends on early childhood preschool programs—about $300 million—“and use it in the way that best serves Louisiana,” Alexander said.
“So, the question is not whether, but how best to make early childhood education available to the largest possible number of children,” Alexander said.
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