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Harkin Applauds Announcement of $250 Million to Support High-Quality Early Learning Programs

New Early Education Funding Secured by Harkin as Chair of Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) applauded the announcement of $250 million in federal funds to support early education through a joint effort by the Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Part of the new Preschool Development Grants competition, the funding was secured by Harkin as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (the Labor-HHS subcommittee) and will support the efforts of states to build, develop, and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families.

Additionally, this comes just months after Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, successfully passed out of committee the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, a bill to expand access to high-quality early learning programs, to HELP Committee approval.

“Every child deserves a strong start and today’s announcement of $250 million to support high-quality early learning programs will help families in Iowa and around the country,” Harkin said. “The earlier we can prepare students to succeed, the more likely they are to continue in their education and climb the ladder of opportunity. Securing funding for critical early education programs like this has long been a top priority for me and I want to thank Education Secretary Arne Duncan and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell for their collaboration. These new competitive grants will help more states expand access to high-quality early learning programs.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure early education remains a top priority.”

The Preschool Development Grants competition is jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The new Preschool Development Grants competition will prepare more states to participate in President Obama’s proposed Preschool for All program—an historic, federal-state partnership that seeks to provide all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families with voluntary, high-quality, publicly-funded preschool and incentives to extend programs to all 4-year-olds.

Harkin has long been a strong champion for early education. Through his education funding committee, Harkin has led a nearly seven-fold increase in funding for Head Start, from $1.2 billion in 1989 to $7.6 billion in 2013. During his tenure, enrollment in Head Start, the pivotal federal program that provides early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent services to low-income children and their families has nearly doubled enrollment from 450,000 in 1989 to about 890,000 today. These Harkin investments also increased the quality of care and education that all children in Head Start receive. Today more than 93 percent of Head Start teachers have an associate’s degree or higher in early childhood education or a related field.

Harkin’s Strong Start for America’s Children Act, introduced in November, aims to expand access to high-quality early learning programs. Harkin’s bill focuses on three key goals: boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving low- and moderate-income families; increasing the quality of infant and toddler care offered by providers; and encouraging continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Read more about the Strong Start for America’s Children Act by clicking here