Legislation With Critical New Investments in Early Learning Passes Congress

Media Contact: Brendan Daly (202.794.1580)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 9, 2015) – Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) President Mark Shriver today applauded Congress for its strong, bipartisan support in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes critical new investments in early learning.

This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) included the authorization of an existing, competitive grant program to provide funding for states that propose to improve coordination, quality and access for early childhood education. Through this Preschool Development Grant program, states can apply for up to three years of grant funding and provide matching funds to support “sustainable improvements and better coordination” of their early learning and child care systems.

“By age 5, a child’s brain is already 90 percent developed, yet two out of five American kids are not enrolled in preschool. This is outrageous and has a long-term impact on the outcome of a child’s life,” said Shriver. “I want to thank the chairs and ranking members in the House and Senate for making early learning a top priority in education reform. Their support was critical to including improved and expanded access to preschool in the bill and goes a long way to ensure that every child has a strong start to life.”

The Every Student Succeeds Act replaces the No Child Left Behind law, which has been in existence since 2002. The Senate voted 85-12 today to approve the legislation, one week after the House voted 359-64 to approve it. It now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law tomorrow.

Shriver also commended the inclusion of early literacy in the ESSA legislation.

“The best way to improve chances for lifelong success of children who live in poverty is to reach them early. Exposure to books is an essential part of early childhood literacy and school readiness, yet two-thirds of children living in poverty have no books at home,” he said.

This legislation takes a significant step toward boosting early literacy by maintaining support for Innovative Approaches to Literacy, a competitive grant program administered through the U.S. Department of Education to support school libraries and national nonprofit organizations working to boost early literacy for children in need.

The legislation also allows for the use of Pay for Success initiatives to improve and expand access to programs for at-risk youth and to promote healthy students. Pay for Success programs, a relatively new funding method in the United States, allow private investors to cover the initial cost of the programs with the hopes of receiving a portion of the savings realized over the lifetime of the initiative. The private investors only receive payment if the program achieves a pre-determined level of success.

In February, Save the Children Action Network joined a coalition of more than 40 organizations, known as the Grow America Stronger Coalition, in releasing recommendations to Congressional leaders on the need to incorporate strong early childhood education provisions in ESEA. The letter detailed the considerable research that links high-quality early learning programs to boosting health, education and economic outcomes for children and families. It also called for the creation of a dedicated funding stream for early childhood education for low-and-moderate income families.

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Save the Children Action Network is the political voice for kids. We believe that every child deserves the best start in life. That’s why we’re building bipartisan will and voter support to make sure every child in the U.S. has access to high-quality early learning and that no mother or child around the globe dies from a preventable disease or illness. By investing in kids and holding leaders accountable, we are helping kids from birth to age five survive and thrive.