12.08.15

PRE-K: Murray: Every Student Succeeds Act Will Improve and Expand Access to Early Learning Programs

PRE-K: Murray: Every Student Succeeds Act Will Improve and Expand Access to Early Learning Programs 

ESSA makes key investments to help students start school on strong footing

Murray: With ESSA, “we have a chance to make one of the smartest investments we can make in our nation’s youngest learners.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee delivered remarks on the Senate floor on provisions to improve and expand access to early childhood education in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the bipartisan legislation she worked on to fix No Child Left Behind. In her remarks, Murray highlighted that as a former preschool teacher, she has seen firsthand the difference early learning can have on a child and that she made it her priority to include expanded access to preschool in the legislation.

Murray noted that ESSA marks the first time the nation’s primary elementary and secondary education law includes dedicated funding to support early learning. The legislation establishes a competitive grant program for states that propose to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for children from low-income and disadvantaged families.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“I still believe that early childhood education is one of the best investments our country can make. It’s why I fought so hard to improve and expand access to preschool throughout this process to fix No Child Left Behind. It’s why I worked across the aisle with Senator Isakson and many other colleagues in the HELP Committee to design a preschool program in our bipartisan Senate bill.  And it’s one of the reasons why this final legislation will be such a strong step forward for our students in the years to come.”

“If we are serious about closing achievement gaps in elementary and secondary education, and if we are truly committed to making sure every student has the chance to succeed, we must invest in quality early childhood education. Back in January, I said right here on the Senate floor that we should only pass a bill to reauthorize ESEA if it expands access to preschool programs. I am glad that our bill follows through on that commitment.”

“The Every Student Succeeds Act will mark the first time that the nation’s primary elementary and secondary education law includes dedicated funding to make sure kids start kindergarten, ready to learn. It does that by establishing a competitive grant program for states that propose to improve, coordination, quality, and access to early child education for kids from low-income and disadvantaged families. These grants will help states like Washington build on the progress it has already made to improve quality and increase access to high-quality preschool programs.”

“M. President, as a former preschool teacher, I saw firsthand the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child. It’s something I’ve never forgotten. On my last day of teaching preschool, before I left to serve in the Washington state Senate, my students gave me a large, blue quilt. Each square was decorated by a student in my class. That quilt now hangs in my U.S. Senate office. It reminds me every day that investing in young children is one of the most important things we can do to help them succeed.”

“Tomorrow, we will have the chance to vote in favor of helping more kids start school on strong footing. We have the chance to fix No Child Left Behind with a bill that recognizes the importance of early learning. And we have a chance to make one of the smartest investments we can make in our nation’s youngest learners. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill for their future and the future of our nation.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, M. President.

 

“I am so glad that, the Senate is taking the last few legislative steps to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – or ESEA.

 

“Our bipartisan bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act, will end the one-size-fits-all mandates of No Child Left Behind, it will reduce reliance on high-stakes testing, and it will help ensure all students have access to a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.

 

“And one of the best ways to help students succeed in school is by offering high-quality early learning opportunities for kids.

 

“So I’m proud that our bipartisan bill will also help improve and expand access to preschool programs for more of our nation’s youngest learners.

 

“You know, preschool is how I got my start in politics. It was the mid-80s, and at the time, I wasn’t thinking about running for the United States Senate – or even the state legislature in Washington.

 

“I had just one specific goal in mind. The state legislature was going to close down a preschool in my small community because of budget cuts.

 

“But when I went to talk to state legislators about it – with my kids with me – they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t think our voice mattered – and they didn’t think preschool should be a priority.

 

“So, I picked up the phone and started calling other parents. We held rallies. We wrote letters. And when it was all said and done – we won.

 

“The legislature kept the funding for our preschool program. And more kids in Washington state were able to start school ready to learn.

 

“M. President, I still believe that early childhood education is one of the best investments our country can make. It’s why I fought so hard to improve and expand access to preschool throughout this process to fix No Child Left Behind.

 

“It’s why I worked across the aisle with Senator Isakson and many other colleagues in the HELP Committee to design a preschool program in our bipartisan Senate bill.  And it’s one of the reasons why this final legislation will be such a strong step forward for our students in the years to come.

 

“So, I hope my colleagues will join me in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act for students, parents, teachers, and communities across the country.

 

“M. President, early childhood education is so important for our children’s future and really, the future of our country. Let’s go through the research.

 

“Studies show before children ever set foot in kindergarten, they have already developed a foundation that will determine all of the learning, health, and behavior that follows.  High-quality early learning programs can strengthen that foundation.

 

“Preschool is especially important for kids from low-income backgrounds.

 

“By the time an average child growing up in poverty turns three-years-old, she will have heard 30 million fewer words, compared to a child from a middle- or high-income family, according to researchers at the University of Kansas.  That’s a serious disadvantage.

 

“By the time she starts kindergarten, the deck will already be stacked against her and her future success. But many families around the country don’t have the option of sending their youngest learners to preschool.

 

“Today, just 14 percent of three-year-olds in America are enrolled in federal or state-funded preschool programs. And 41 percent of four-year-olds are enrolled.

 

“If we are serious about closing achievement gaps in elementary and secondary education, and if we are truly committed to making sure every student has the chance to succeed, we must invest in quality early childhood education.

 

“Back in January, I said right here on the Senate floor that we should only pass a bill to reauthorize ESEA if it expands access to preschool programs. I am glad that our bill follows through on that commitment. 

 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act will mark the first time that the nation’s primary elementary and secondary education law includes dedicated funding to make sure kids start kindergarten, ready to learn.

 

“It does that by establishing a competitive grant program for states that propose to improve, coordination, quality, and access to early child education for kids from low-income and disadvantaged families.

 

“These grants will help states like Washington build on the progress it has already made to improve quality and increase access to high-quality preschool programs.

 

“M. President, as proud as I am of our bipartisan bill – and all it does to improve and expand access to preschool, we still have work to do.

 

“I’m going to continue working to do even more for kids and families in Washington state and across the country.

 

“I’ll continue fighting hard to make sure that if a family wants to send their child to a quality preschool program, there will be an open spot ready for them. 

 

“Because when all students have the chance to learn, we strengthen our future workforce, our nation grows strong, our economy grows from the middle out, not the top down, and we empower the next generation of Americans to lead the world.

 

“M. President, as a former preschool teacher, I saw firsthand the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.

 

“On my last day of teaching preschool, before I left to serve in the Washington state Senate, my students gave me a large, blue quilt. Each square was decorated by a student in my class. That quilt now hangs in my U.S. Senate office. It reminds me every day that investing in young children is one of the most important things we can do to help them succeed.

 

“Tomorrow, we will have the chance to vote in favor of helping more kids start school on strong footing.

 

“We have the chance to fix No Child Left Behind with a bill that recognizes the importance of early learning.

 

“And we have a chance to make one of the smartest investments we can make in our nation’s youngest learners.

 

“I urge my colleagues to pass this bill for their future and the future of our nation.

 

“Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.”