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Praise for Harkin Bill to Expand Access to High-Quality Early Learning Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Since its introduction on Wednesday, a broad range of advocates and experts has expressed support for Senate HELP Chairman Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) Strong Start for America’s Children Act, a bill that would expand access to high-quality early learning programs for children from birth to age five. This major legislative initiative builds on the framework put forward by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union Address and reflects Chairman Harkin’s longstanding commitment to ensuring that learning begins at birth. This proposal would greatly increase access to and quality of programs that serve children from birth to kindergarten.

Harkin, along with, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the bill yesterday. They were joined by Senate HELP Committee Members Patty Murray (D-WA), Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Read more about the bill here. Excerpts from letters of support sent to Chairman Harkin follow, with the full list of supporters below.

“[T]hank you for your leadership in introducing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which promotes high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth until age 5. NEA is proud to support this vitally important legislation that would establish a new federal-state partnership to accelerate progress already underway and help states fund high-quality prekindergarten for 4-year olds from low-income families, encourage states to support prekindergarten for 4-year-olds from moderate-income families, and encourage learning opportunities for even younger children—for example, through partnerships with Early Head Start programs.

“High-quality prekindergarten programs also bring enormous economic benefits. They can pay for themselves in as little as one year and, over decades, save the states and the federal government billions of dollars…Investing in our youngest children is investing in our nation’s future. We thank you for your leadership in bringing forward this groundbreaking legislation and look forward to working with you to advance it.”

--National Education Association

“The bill would enable many additional four-year-old children from low- and moderate-income families to benefit from a preschool experience. The Center is pleased that it accomplishes this goal by building on the existing network of early childhood providers in communities in order to meet the diverse needs of families, strengthening the quality of existing preschool programs, and supporting the creation of new high-quality programs.”

--National Women’s Law Center

“The Strong Start for America's Children Act would make great strides toward ensuring that every child can access high-quality pre-K using a state-federal partnership that allows states to develop high-quality pre-K systems that give children the most educational benefit. Additionally, the legislation recognizes the linkages between pre-K and early care and education for infants and toddlers. With center-based child care costing more than public college tuition in many states, parents often face difficult choices while at school or at work. To address this, the bill creates partnerships between Early Head Start centers and child care providers serving children through age three. This proposal will improve the quality and affordability of child care while increasing dependability for participating children.”

--Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus

“[This bill] will provide access to high-quality prekindergarten programs for all low- to moderate-income children. We commend you for introducing a bill that takes dramatic, positive steps toward securing critically needed additional investments to ensure that all children, regardless of income, enter kindergarten ready to learn. High quality early learning environments are invaluable resources proven to positively alter the trajectory of young lives. We are heartened by this new proposal and urge all of our national leaders to support The Strong Start for America’s Children Act.”

--Local Initiatives Support Corporation

“The legislation reflects the research that validates the importance of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers having access to high-quality early learning. Neuroscience has demonstrated that a solid foundation in language, literacy, social emotional development, and executive functioning is the backbone to young children arriving at kindergarten prepared for success in school—and in life.”

--National Association for the Education of Young Children

“I am pleased to write this letter in support of your early childhood bill, the Strong Start for America's Children Act. Research shows that children who receive early intervention services at a young age, may need fewer educational supports and services once they enter school and may even no longer requires special education supports.

“[We] believes that your bill is a giant step forward in ensuring the availability of quality pre-K services for all children and we look forward to working with you and your staffs to secure its final passage.”

--National Association of State Directors of Special Education 

“CLASP applauds Senator Harkin and Representative Miller for introducing this important legislation. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act is a giant step forward for expanding quality early education. In a country where one in four of our youngest children lives in poverty and fully half live in low-income households, we simply cannot afford to ignore any longer the existing gaps in access to high-quality early learning experiences that ensure our youngest children are equipped to succeed.”


“Thank you for your work on behalf of children across the country, with the understanding that investing early in children’s education pays high dividends to the children themselves and to society as a whole. We applaud the growing recognition that we can invest early to support all children, or pay a lot more in the future to try to remediate problems.”

--National Children’s Facilities Network 

“The Council of the Great City Schools, the coalition of the nation’s largest central city school districts, writes to commend you on the introduction of [this bill]. The introduction of the ECE bill will jump start an important dialogue about delivering quality early education to pre-school children, particularly those from low-income families.”

--Council of the Great City Schools

The Strong Start for America’s Children Act has garnered support from a broad range of advocates and experts, including: Alliance for Children and Families, America’s Edge, American Federation of School Administrators, AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, Association of American Publishers, BUILD Initiative, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Champions for America’s Future, Child Care Aware, Child Care Law Center, Children’s Defense Fund, CLASP, Coalition on Human Needs, Council for Exceptional Children, Early Childhood Policy Research, Early Childhood Policy Research, Easters Seals, the EVERY Child Matters Education Fund, Fair Share, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, First Five Years Fund, First Focus Campaign for Children, Generations United, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) USA, International Reading Association, The Leadership Council on Civil Rights, Learning Disabilities Association of America, LISC, Literate Nation, Mission: Readiness, Moms Rising, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Association for Music Education, National Black Child Development Institute, National Children’s Facilities Network, National Council of Jewish Women, National Education Association, National Head Start Association, National PTA, National Title 1 Association, National Women’s Law Center, NETWORK: a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, 9 to 5, Parents as Teachers, Ready Nation/America’s Promise Alliance, RESULTS, Save the Children, Scholastic, SEIU, Shepherding the Next Generation, Stand for Children, Teaching Strategies, Wider Opportunities for Women, and Zero to Three, among others.