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George M.
Former Democrat CA 11
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    Strong Start for America’s Children Act

    by Former Representative George Miller

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, study after study has shown us that investment in quality early education leads to better educational outcomes, stronger job earnings, and lower crime rates. Decades of research confirm that quality preschool helps prevent achievement gaps for low-income children, with long-term benefits for our Nation.

    But we don't need research to confirm the importance of quality early childhood education. Ask any parent in America if it matters to them. The problem is that not enough children have access to it. That is why I have introduced the bipartisan bill, Strong Start for America's Children Act.

    When Congressman Hanna, Senator Harkin, and I introduced the bill in November, we were joined by the sheriff of Minneapolis, a top private- sector CEO, a retired Air Force General, a parent, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. These leaders from so many segments of our country understand the need for greater Federal investment in high- quality preschool.

    My legislation proposes an innovative Federal-State partnership to increase resources for local school districts and community-based programs that provide quality pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds. It also allows funding for educating 3-year-olds. It also allows States to spend some of the money on good quality infant and toddler care. The bill improves child care quality for infants and toddlers by supporting partnerships between child care and Early Head Start.

    Millions of young children from low-income families lack access to high-quality preschool programs and child care services. They are on waiting lists because of limited public funding. This deepens achievement gaps and impedes the Nation's economic workforce success.

    For example, Early Head Start has shown to be an effective, high- quality program; yet the sad truth is that only 3 percent of the eligible children have access to it. Additionally, one in six low- income families eligible for Federal child care services has access.

    Mr. Speaker, this is not a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers don't know that political parties exist. In fact, we are seeing that Republican and Democratic Governors from all regions of the country are pushing for more funding for early learning in their States. They want to be partners with the Federal Government.

    State legislators from both parties in a wide range of States have led efforts to support quality preschool. Just recently, we received a letter signed by more than 500 State legislators from both parties in support of this issue.

    I am also very proud of our partnership with the fellow Republican Members of the House, such as Mr. Hanna and Mr. Grimm. We all know that the policy makes sense for America's future. We all know what is possible in our communities and in our Nation if kids are given a fair shot at success.

    The public understands and believes in early childhood education. A bipartisan poll released in July found an overwhelming majority of Americans supports quality early childhood education and rate it a national priority, second to only increasing jobs and economic growth. Seven in 10 support the Federal plan to help States and local communities provide better early childhood education.

    Members of Congress and other policymakers are also getting on board. The bipartisan budget agreement reached last month includes a reserve fund for early childhood education, child care, and voluntary home visitation. That is yet another acknowledgment by another bipartisan group of Members--in this case, budget leaders--that early childhood education should be a top priority for the Federal Government. That acknowledgment is clearly a step forward, but it isn't enough. Our next step must be the enactment of the Strong Start Act.

    With the fiscal year 2014 spending deadline less than a week away, I understand that appropriators from both Houses are considering increased funding for preschool, as outlined in our bipartisan bill. I heartily encourage this course.

    Despite the language used whenever we in Congress talk about budgets, funding early childhood education isn't spending. It is an investment, and it is an investment that is critical for our Nation's long-term economic strength.

    From a better-educated workforce to a reduced need for social services, study after study has documented the enormous return on investment of early childhood education. We can save between $7 and $12 for every dollar invested. These are real savings resulting from less grade repetition, lower dropout rates, less spending on welfare and social services, more tax revenue, and lower incarceration rates.

    As Sheriff Rich Stanek said when we launched the Strong Start for America's Children Act: I'm the guy you pay later.

    Let's stop spending on the back end what we should be investing in the beginning in a child's life.

    For all of these reasons, our bill has the support of more than 60 national organizations representing pediatricians, law enforcement, religious [[Page H78]] groups, labor unions, business and military leaders, people with disabilities, school principals, civil rights leaders, and literacy advocates. Now is the time to empower the next generation and guarantee a better future for our Nation.


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