Jordan Soto Says Farewell


By summer intern Jordan Soto

When I was young it was my dream to be the President of the United States. At five years old until around middle school I adamantly expressed my aspiration of becoming the leader of the free world to anyone who would listen and even to those who didn’t. Many thought this was silly but to me it was reality. Fortunately, I was blessed with parents who were able to provide many opportunities while always supporting me no matter what. I was always told that I could do anything I wanted and I believed it. Encouragement is important but without a viable pathway toward success, sadly it can futile.

I no longer wish to pursue that lofty career goal but I do, however, want to be an advocate promoting important issues that I am passionate about. One such issue is the increased need for quality affordable child care and early childhood education, especially for children from low-income families. Going into my third and final year of law school (thank goodness) I knew it was important to think about the trajectory of my career when determining where to spend my final summer before finding actual employment. Since the beginning of my law school career I have been interested in taking a somewhat different post-graduation route than many of my fellow classmates. I plan to employ the legal knowledge and skill I have attained to really help people in a meaningful way, but on a more holistic rather than individual level. Having a strong understanding of the law can be utilized as an essential tool in promoting important policy and social change benefiting those who need it most.

In my search for a summer internship, I knew that I wanted to get involved with an organization doing positive work at the national level. Opportunely, I connected with some great people at Child Care Aware® of America and shortly after, enthusiastically accepted a summer policy internship position. So this summer I have had the pleasure of learning from the policy team at CCAoA. I was not really sure what my experience would be like but what I did know was that this organization is the nation’s leading voice on child care so I was quite confident that it would be a positive one.

I have learned so much working with amazing, intelligent and passionate individuals. Further, I truly believe that the work done at Child Care Aware® of America is not only vital to the success of children but to our country as a whole. Early childhood education and child care provide an atmosphere that facilitates strong early development and promotes school readiness. These factors greatly increase children’s chances of success and open pathways that may have been otherwise unavailable. When children get a good start they are more likely to graduate high school, go to college and stay out of the juvenile justice system. This experience taught me what it means to be a strong advocate and promote policies that could have a huge impact on our most vulnerable citizens. Quality affordable child care is important but I have realized it is even more than that, it is a necessity.

The unfortunate reality is that many children do not have the access, means or support that I did growing up. Many children may never have the opportunity or ability to pursue their dreams. Without these services many families face significant roadblocks to prosperity and are simply unable to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. These facts are unjust and unfair. Every child in this country should have access to opportunities, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. Every child deserves a chance to dream BIG and find success. Early childhood education and child care is the answer and I have learned what part I can play in making that idea a reality.

Thank you, Child Care Aware® of America for solidifying what is important to me as an individual and as a young professional. I have learned so much about myself, policy, and the importance of being an advocate. I will be leaving this experience with a profound desire to be a part of something much bigger than me. For all these things and more, this was a remarkable and irreplaceable experience.

Teaching Children Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Education

512px-Multiculturalism_squareBy Summer Intern Makala Graves

One of the most pressing issues that families and educators both face today is raising children to be both culturally competent and sensitive to their environment from a young age. It is vital that children learn how to respect and accept people whose culture and background differ from their own. Without implementing these values into our children, we put them at risk of growing up into adults who contribute to the problems brought on by the discrimination in society. It is the responsibility of educators and parents to help prepare children at an early age with the knowledge, attitude, and skills to be able to excel in our complex and diverse world.

The infrastructure of self-awareness begins at the infant and toddler stages, it is during this time period that children begin to understand who they are. In fact, according to Scan Virginia, children as young as two, start to become aware of differences such as gender, ethnicity, and disability. It is also during this time of adolescence that children become sensitive to both the negative and positive attitudes and biases attached to identity as reflected by their family, school, community, or just the world in general.

According to UUA’s general assembly of 2012, it is by the age of 9, that children’s cultural attitudes are set in, and tend to stay constant, unless the child is faced with a life changing event. This is why it is imperative to teach children cultural competence at ages early as preschool.

The task and responsibility of teaching cultural competence to preschool aged children is one that many may find burdensome. However, it can be quite straight forward. With young children, educators and families can start with activities such as doing skin color match-ups with flesh colored crayons, doing thumbprints to show the similarities and differences among other children, or even having children explain to each other their family’s traditions. The best place to implement these activities would be in a place that is diverse, such as a classroom. When children are taught to understand these cultural differences, they are more likely to accept them.

To ensure, early education facilities are taking the necessary steps to promote cultural competence, regardless of the activities one chooses to do that, the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block grant (CCDBG) will provide training to parents and educators to prepare them with the necessary tools to provide high quality education on cultural diversity among other things. With the collaboration of educators and families, we can teach children cultural competence and acceptance, and shape them to be the future leaders this community needs.

Preschoolers in a classroom with their teacher.

Senate Approves Bi-Partisan Overhaul of No Child Left Behind

Earlier today, the Senate approved the “Every Child Achieves Act” (S. 1177) with an 81-17 vote. S. 1177 would replace No Child Left Behind and would retain some features of the current law, including standardized testing, but overall S. 1177 would give more flexibility to states and reduce the Federal government’s role in the nation’s education policy.

The “Every Child Achieves Act” includes a proposal to authorize a new early education grant to states to improve early childhood education coordination, quality, and access, and would specifically target resources for low- and moderate-income families.  Additionally, S. 117 creates a new literacy program that includes a set-aside for early learning initiatives.

Shortly before the Senate approved the bill, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) offered an amendment authorizing the Preschool Development Grants program, as well as the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.”  The amendment failed on a 45-52 vote.

At this time, it’s unclear what the next steps are with regards to sending a final bill to President Obama.  boypaintingWhile the Senate bill represents a strong, bi-partisan agreement, the House bill, which barely passed last week, is much different and proposes far more drastic changes to the country’s K-12 education policy.  The House version, known as the “Student Success Act,” goes much further in eliminating the Federal government’s role in holding schools accountable, especially for low-income districts.

While President Obama has expressed concerns about the Senate-passed measure, he has threatened to veto the House version.  However, this should not be interpreted that the President would sign S. 1177.

Congressional leaders could reach a compromise between the House and Senate bills, but it seems very unlikely that a majority of House Republicans would support this.  Therefore, House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), would need the support of nearly the entire Democratic caucus and some Republicans to approve such a bill.  However, this would be a violation of the “Hastert Rule,” which is the legislating principle that any bill should be able to pass with a House Republican majority.  Even if a compromise bill clears the House, it could face the threat of a filibuster in the Senate.

We will continue to monitor this and keep you updated.

Child Care and ECD Update: A Major Fight Looms Over Funding for Next Year


This week, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending measures, which is the legislation that provides annual funding for child care and early child development programs. As expected, both committees rejected the President’s major child care proposals.

The Senate bill includes a $150 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is to be dedicated towards costs associated with the new requirements under the 2014 law. The House version of this bill, which the Appropriations Committee approved on June 24, does not propose any increase in CCDBG funding for next year. However, both the House and Senate versions proposed increases for Head Start, including $192 million in the House and $100 million in the Senate. The increased funding would be dedicated towards expanding the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Program.

While it may come as welcoming news that child care and early child development programs will likely receive an increase in funds next year, it’s important to point out that neither bill would end the sequester or raise the budget caps established in the FY 2016 Congressional Budget Resolution.  Therefore, a considerable number of children could lose access to these programs if Congress does not restore funding before completing a final bill. In addition, both chambers proposed deep cuts to critical health and education programs, and eliminated certain programs including Preschool Development Grants.

The next steps on this legislation is unclear, but with President Obama likely vetoing any bill that doesn’t restore at least some of the proposed spending cuts, it’s next to impossible that an agreement between Congress and the White House will be reached by October 1, 2015.

We will keep you updated, and you can view the House bill here, and the details of the Senate bill here.

Summer Meals Act of 2015

Children enjoy a nutritious summer meal served at the Sandston Woods Apartment Complex in Henrico County, VA. Photo by

Children enjoy a nutritious summer meal served at the Sandston Woods Apartment Complex in Henrico County, VA. Photo by

By Jordan Soto, Summer Policy Intern

Earlier this week, the sponsors of the “Summer Meals Act of 2015” (HR 1728/ S. 613) held a briefing on Capitol Hill.

This legislation is a bipartisan and bicameral measure focused on the improvement and expansion of Summer Nutrition Programs. The Senate version is sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the House version (H.R. 1728) is sponsored by Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Rick Larsen (D-WA).

Summer Nutrition Programs help provide children from low-income families, relying on low cost or free meals during the school year with access to healthy and nutritious meals during summer months as well. This legislation is essential to children’s learning, development and health. These programs are implemented in many ways such as child care facilities.

The Summer Meals Act of 2015 focuses on improving Summer Nutrition Programs in four major ways. First, it proposes to change the eligibility standard. Currently, a site must have 50% of the children within the area eligible for low-cost or free meals in order to qualify for Summer Nutrition Programs. Under this proposal this standard would be lowered, making the requirement only 40% of children. The administrative process will be simplified enabling sponsors to provide children with meals year-round without having to apply separately to operate during the summer. At this time, agencies are providing children with only two meals per day but this proposal would increase that to three meals per day. Finally, it proposes making transportation grants available to sites enabling them to reach children in under served areas.

Not only do these programs provide children with the healthy meals they need but they also create an arena for continuous learning and help prevent the loss of learning over the summer. Further, these sites create an environment that will guide at-risk youth on a path toward success and help to pull them out of the cycle of poverty.

For more information on this bill, click here.

House Passes Bipartisan Measure to Extend Health Insurance and Home Visiting Programs for Children

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that would extend child care and early child development programs that support millions of families.

The extension of these programs was included in the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,” (H.R. 2), which is legislation aimed at ending the sustainable growth rate, also known as the “doc-fix,” used for calculating doctor’s payments for Medicare.

H.R. 2 includes a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance coverage to nearly 8 million low-income children. Funding for CHIP was scheduled to expire this September if Congress did not act, which would have put many children at considerable risk of losing health care coverage. In addition to the extension of funding, H.R. 2 would also raise the Federal match to CHIP by 23% on October 1, 2015.175517670

H.R. 2 also includes a two-year extension ($400 million annually) for the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. MIECHV is a Federal-state partnership that provides critical support for pregnant women and families, as well as helps new, low-income parents access resources to help their children develop physically, socially, and emotionally to prepare them for kindergarten.

Congress will be in recess for the next two weeks. President Obama supports H.R. 2 and the Senate is expected to address the bill when it returns on April 13, 2015. Final passage is not certain but it’s likely, and since the current “doc-fix” Medicare cuts expire on March 31, the Senate will need to move quickly when it reconvenes.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves Funding Increase for Early Childhood Programs

On Tuesday, June 10th, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies held a markup on the Fiscal Year 2015 spending bill for the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill.

The subcommittee, chaired by retiring Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) approved the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bill that provides $156,773,000,000 in base discretionary budget authority, the same as the FY 2014 level. In addition, the bill includes $1,484,000,000 in cap adjustment funding, permitted under the law, a $560,000,000 increase, to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and improper payments in the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs.

Harkin heralded the investment in early childhood programs the bill sought to make, stating “This is the bill that invests in America and allows us to respond to the changing needs of our country, all within a difficult budget.  I am particularly encouraged that the bill directs funding to investments in high-quality early childhood care and education, which have been proven to have positive, lasting effects on children and families.”

The spending bill provides a combined increase of $348,327,000 for key early childhood care and education programs; Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Preschool Development Grants, and IDEA Grants for Infants and Families. Together, they address the entire age range of birth through age five.

The main highlights of the bill include:

Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)—The Committee recommendation includes $2,458,246,000, a $100,000,000 increase, for the CCDBG

Head Start— The Committee recommendation includes $8,742,845,000, a $145,000,000 increase, for Head Start. 

Preschool Development GrantsThe Committee recommends $350,000,000, an increase of $100,000,000, to continue support for Preschool Development Grants. 

Early Childhood Statewide Longitudinal Data SystemsThe Committee recommends $34,539,000, the same amount as the current year, for statewide longitudinal data systems.

The full committee will meet later this week, with House action yet to take place on the funding levels for the same programs.

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes CCDBG Reauthorization Bill: Day 2 Recap

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.21.44 PMIn an effort to significantly improve the quality of child care across the nation and to prove that it is possible for the Senate to work in regular order, in a bipartisan manner.  By a vote of 96-2, the Senate approved S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, turning the focus over to the House of Representatives for action.

The Senators voting in favor of passage for the bill included 53 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and 2 Independents.  Only Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) voted against the measure, while Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) did not vote on the bill.

Throughout the second day of Senator floor consideration for S.1086, the Senate adopted 10 amendments covering a wide-range of topics related to the bill.  Nine of the amendments were adopted by voice vote, while only one of the amendments was adopted by a roll call vote, Senator Coburn’s measure to help ensure that child care assistance is not being supplied to those with an income greater than $1 million annually.

The country has definitely taken notice as the passage of the bipartisan S.1086 has led headlines. To read more about the media’s take on the passage of the bill, check out this article from Politico – Senate passes child care bill

While passage out of the Senate was an important step forward to improving the quality of child care, the process is far from finished as the House of Representatives will be pressured to take action.  The good news is that the prospects coming out of the House Education and the Workforce Committee have seemingly increased the odds that CCDBG Reauthorization will be looked at in this upcoming year.

Today, immediately following the passage of S.1086 out of the Senate, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN) released this statement:

“Senate passage of legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant is a step forward in the shared goal of strengthening the nation’s existing network of early childhood services. The bill includes several commonsense provisions that will help empower parents and enhance coordination between CCDBG and other federal early care programs, such as Head Start. The committee will convene a hearing on March 25, 2014 to examine House priorities for CCDBG, and I look forward to a productive discussion as we work to find common ground and complete the reauthorization of this important program.”

This is a huge win for working families in this country.  This bill contains many common-sense measures for helping protect children in child care, such as requiring providers to undergo comprehensive background checks, ensuring annual inspections are conducted and requiring childcare providers receive training on CPR, first aid, and safe sleep practices.

We are one step closer to ensuring children are safe and receiving quality early learning experiences while in child care. The research is clear, children’s early years are proven to be the most important time to create strong learners. This bill sets the standard families expect for their children.

Please join us to thank the Senate for standing up for children and working families by voting yes to reauthorize CCDBG.

Click here to thank your Senator for voting Yes on S.1086

Senate Takes Up CCDBG Reauthorization: Day 1 Recap

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 10.12.53 PM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) kicked off the floor action on the bill earlier this morning and stated, “In the two decades since this important program was last authorized, we’ve learned a great deal about the importance of early childhood education and high-quality child care. This bipartisan measure builds on that knowledge, it updates health and safety standards for child-care centers and requires providers to undergo comprehensive background checks.”  After moving onto roll-call votes for nominations and finishing those votes, the four Senators leading the effort took the floor for their opening remarks:

Excerpts from the remarks:

“Each year, the Child Care and Development Block Grant program helps more than 1.5 million low-income children nationwide, including 39,000 in Tennessee, have the kind of early learning and care that can help put them on the same starting line as other children.  The program works because it supports parents going to work or getting an education, and gives them the freedom to choose the child care that is right for their family.”-       Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

“Every family in America with children is concerned about child care. They wonder if it’s available. They wonder if it’s affordable. They worry if it’s safe. And they’re also concerned if it helps their children be ready to learn.  These worries weigh heavily on the shoulders of parents everywhere. Our bill helps lift that burden – giving families and children the child care they need.  This bill, as I said, is the product of bipartisan effort.  Child care is something all families worry about regardless of zip code or income. This bill ensures that all children have the care that they need and deserve. What we did was focus on what these needs are. “       Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the rest of the speech in its entirety can be seen here.

Senator Richard Burr’s (R-NC) Floor Speech in its entirety can be seen here.

Status of Amendments:

As a bipartisan bill from the beginning, working through regular order, S. 1086 has become seen as a beacon of hope for the Senate to return to regular order as the norm, not the exception.  To encourage participation throughout the Upper Chamber, Senators Burr and Mikulski pushed their colleagues to submit related amendments to the bill for a quality discussion on where the bill could stand to improve.  By day’s end, the number of submitted amendments for S.1086 totaled around 20, with some already receiving debate and votes.  The following list will provide background on the amendment, the sponsors of that amendment, and whether any action was taken on that amendment.

The Amendments:
No.  2805
Sponsors: Fischer (R-NE), King (I-ME), Rubio (R-FL)
Summary: Would limit the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to regulate non-diagnostic medical software
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2807
Sponsors: Gillibrand (D-NY)
Summary:  Would allow for tax deduction of child care expenses of up to $7,000 for 1 qualifying child and up to $14,000 for 2 or more qualifying children.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2808
Sponsors: Murphy (D-CT)
Summary:  Would increase dollar limitation on tax exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2809
Sponsors: Boxer (D-CA), Burr (R-NC)
Summary: Would amend Section 231 of the Crime Control Act of 1990 by enhancing background check requirements for individuals working with children.  The Boxer/Burr Amendment would apply the same comprehensive background check requirement to federal lands that S. 1086 requires of states.
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
No.  2810
Sponsors: Boxer (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY)
Summary:  Would make changes to the IRS Tax Code by provides increases to the Employer-provided Child Care Credit and the Dependent Care Credit, creating a new credit for individuals holding child care-related degrees who work in licensed child care facilities, and a credit for providers who meet certain measures.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2811
Sponsors: Harkin (D-IA)
Summary: Would clarify “rural and remote areas” as underserved populations.
Actions: Submitted, Harkin (D-IA) submitted substitute, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2812
Sponsors:  Enzi (R-WY)
Summary:  Would require the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Department of Education to conduct a review of all early learning and care programs to develop a plan to eliminate duplicative and overlapping programs and make recommendations for streamlining all programs.  Report would be due to Congress within 1 year of enactment.
Actions:  Adopted 98-0
No.  2813
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Grassley (R-IA), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary:  Would allow children in foster care to receive services under the CCDBG Act while their families (including foster families) are taking necessary action to comply with immunization and other health and safety
Actions:  Adopted by Voice Vote
No.  2814
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Blunt (R-KS), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary:  Would require the state plan to describe how the state will coordinate the services supported to carry out the CCDBG Act with state agencies and programs serving children in foster care and the foster families of such children
Actions:  Adopted by Voice Vote
No.  2815
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary: Would require the state plan to describe how the state will develop and       implement strategies to increase the supply and improve the quality of child care with state agencies and programs serving children in foster care and the foster families of such children.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2816
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA)
Summary:  Would require each child care staff member providing direct services to children has earned a degree, which may be an associate’s degree or a baccalaureate degree, in early childhood education or a closely related field; and on and after a provided date, the child care provider will hire only individuals who have earned that degree.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2817
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA)
Summary:  Would not more than 1% be reserved for the Secretary to conduct a “Quality and effectiveness evaluation,” which would evaluate the quality and effectiveness of activities carried out, using scientifically valid research methodologies, in order to increase the understanding of State and local program administrators concerning the practices and strategies most likely to produce positive outcomes.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2818
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Mikulski (D-MD)
Summary:  Would require that the State plan shall demonstrate the manner in which the State will address the needs of children in child care services provided through programs authorized under this subchapter, including the need for safe child care, during the period before, during, and after a state of emergency declared by the Governor or a major disaster or emergency.  Would include a statewide child care disaster plan for coordination of activities and collaboration between among the State agency with jurisdiction over human services, the agency with jurisdiction over State emergency planning, the State lead agency, the State agency with jurisdiction over licensing of child care providers, the local resource and referral organizations, the State resource and referral system, and the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.
Actions: Adopted 98-0
No.  2819
Sponsors: Scott (R-SC)
Summary: To clarify that nothing in this bill shall be construed or applied in any manner that would favor or promote the use of grants and contracts over the use of child care certificates; or that would disfavor or discourage the use of such certificates for the purchase of child care services, including those services provided by private or nonprofit entities, such as faith-based provider.
Actions:  See Senate Amendment no. 2837.
No.  2820
Sponsors: Lee (R-UT)
Summary: Would require each parent, who applies for assistance for child care services for a child to include the name and valid identification number of the child on the application, which could include a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
No.  2821
Sponsors: Lee (R-UT)
Summary:  Would prohibit states from reporting information to the federal government that contains personally identifiable information
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
No.  2822
Sponsors: Franken (D-MN)
Summary: Would set aside at least 2 percent of funds appropriated each fiscal year for Child Care and Development Block Grants for payments to American Indian tribes and tribal organizations.
Actions: Adopted 93-6
No.  2824
Sponsors: Bennett (D-CO)
Summary: Would require states that combine funding for child care block grants with other federal early childhood education programs — including Head Start and programs assisting low-income children, those that are homeless or those with disabilities — to describe how it will they will use the combined funding.
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
No.  2837
Sponsors: Scott (R-SC)
Summary: See Senate Amendment no. 2819
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote

Tomorrow’s Floor Schedule and Timing

The Senate will reconvene Thursday morning at 9:30am and continue voting on amendments.  Although Senate Majority Leader Reid mentioned that the vote may not occur until next week, Senators Burr and Mikulski have strongly stated that they expect the vote to happen Thursday around 2:00pm Eastern.  We will keep you updated with all of the relevant information as it comes available.

To keep up with the action as it happens, you can watch the C-SPAN feed here or follow our twitter feed at @usachildcare.

It’s your last chance to let your Senators know that they need to support S.1086.

Take Action Now!

Congress Hears Call for Action, House and Senate Hold Hearings on Early Learning


House Education and the Workforce Committee Hearing:

“As we examine the current federal early childhood education and care system this morning, my Republican colleagues and I believe we should discuss opportunities to streamline the mountain of existing federal programs, reduce regulatory burdens, and improve transparency to make it easier for providers and parents to understand their options. And above all, we must work together to ensure these programs are serving disadvantaged families first, consistent with the original intent of the federal investment in early childhood programs.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee recently took steps toward these fundamental goals with legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant. As you know, CCDBG provides funds to states to help low-income families access quality child care, and has been due for reauthorization for over a decade. The Senate bill, approved by the committee late last year, includes several commonsense provisions that will help empower parents and enhance coordination between CCDBG and other federal early care and development programs, such as Head Start. I believe this proposal provides a solid foundation to begin related discussions in this committee, and look forward to working with my colleagues on this initiative in the coming months.”

– Excerpt from House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Kline (R-MN)

“Greater child care and early education investments at the federal, state, and local levels are needed because low-income, working parents lack access, can’t afford services, and don’t have enough good choices. The future of our nation depends on turning this around and providing high-quality early learning for all children”

– Excerpt from House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA)

On Wednesday, February 6, 2014, the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Congressman John Kline from Minnesota held a hearing on early childhood programs entitled “The Foundation for Success: Discussing Early Childhood Education and Care in America.”  The hearing featured a diverse witness list, including Ms. Kay E. Brown from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Dr. Russ Whitehurst from the Brookings Institution, Ms. Harriet Dichter from the Delaware Office of Early Learning, and Dr. Elanna S. Yalow, the Executive Director of Knowledge Universe Early Learning Programs.

The full hearing can be watched here:

More information about the hearing, including the testimonies for all of the witness and additional items can be found here:

After the opening statements from Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Miller, the witness presented their testimonies, starting off with Kay Brown and Russ Whitehurst, both of which emphasized their belief that the current early childhood system is far too complex, fragmented, and overlapping at times.

Ms. Brown stated that “Multiple agencies administer the federal investment in early learning and child care through multiple programs that sometimes have similar goals and are targeted to similar groups of children… the federal investment in these programs is fragmented [and] some of these programs overlap one another.”   In his testimony, Dr. Whitehurst added that “The question for me is not whether the federal government should support the learning and care of young children from economically disadvantaged homes and otherwise vulnerable status but how it should do so. The current system, a mishmash of 45 separate, incoherent, and largely ineffective programs, fails to serve the broader public and certainly is less than optimal for the children and families to which it is directed.”

Following Ms. Brown and Dr. Whitehurst, Dr. Yalow mentioned in her testimony that “This is an important and exciting time for early childhood education. Supported by research, there is a growing recognition of both the short and long-term benefits of high-quality early learning experiences on young children, including healthy brain development, school readiness, future success in school, as well as related positive economic and societal benefits.

With so much attention and focus on a child’s earliest years, it is critical that we get our policies right.  It is important that our investments focus on children who will benefit most; are fisccally responsible and sustainable; keep an eye towards possible adverse consequences of well-intentioned efforts; promote conintous program improvement and quality; recognize and respect that we cannot afford to displace the many qualified, expereinced, and dedicated teachers already serving our youngest citizens; and countinue to support and respect parental choice to meet the needs of individual children and families.”

After opening up for questions from some of the Committee members present, Harriet Dichter, Executive Director of the Delaware Office of Early Learning, presented her testimony.  Ms. Dichter mentioned that “The importance of the first years of life is critical- the experiences children have during this unique time set the stage for all aspects of development and learning. Because of the developmental significance of this time, the quality of early childhood programs for both children and families is essential to good outcomes.”

Following the testimony of all the witnesses, the Committee members pressed the witness on their statements, which focused on a variety of different aspects of early childhood programs including a discussion of whether or not the programs overlap and if that is necessary in some cases, what improving the quality of programs could and/or should entail, and what is the best way to reach the most vulnerable populations.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing:

The next day, Thursday, February 7th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Harkin (D-IA) held a hearing entitled “Supporting Children and Families through Investments in High-Quality Early Education.”

The recording of the full hearing, testimonies, and additional documents can be found here:

For the Senate hearing, the witnesses included:

  • Dr. Hirokazu Yoshikawa , Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, New York University, New York, NY
  • Mr. John White , State Superintendent for Louisiana Department of Education, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Ms. Danielle Ewen , Director of the Office of Early Childhood Education, District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, DC
  • Ms. Charlotte M. Brantley , President and CEO of Clayton Early Learning, Denver, CO

Dr. Yoshkikawa provided a technical and in-depth testimony regarding the overwhelming benefits of quality early education programs and the positive effects on socio-emotional, language, literacy, and mathematical skills.  John White from the Louisiana Department of Education followed up by stating that “Often the debate over investing in early childhood education comes down to study against study, each claiming an absolute truth about the effectiveness of an initiative that spans hundreds of thousands of young lives in disparate settings. I think – and our state proves – that it’s time we get beyond this debate. Early education can be life changing for low-income children when it is done well, and when quality is sustained in the grades that follow. Done poorly, like anything else, its effects are limited. But done well, it is a potent arrow in the quivers of those fighting the effects of inequality and poverty.”

Ms. Ewen, who heads the DC Office of Early Childhood Education, while discussing the importance of layered funding models, stated that “With the blended model, we are able to provide high quality comprehensive services to many more children who can benefit, with the same level of grant funding. This has created a unified early childhood system where all children in our classrooms receive the same quality of programming regardless of whether the program is called Head Start or pre-kindergarten.”

Ms. Ewen added that “For DCPS, implementation of the Act[Pre-K Enactment and Expansion Act, 2008] was a critical turning point in our efforts to improve outcomes for our children. We are now both the largest single provider of services for three- and four-year-old children and of Head Start-eligible children in the District of Columbia.”

Charlotte b claytonLastly, Ms. Brantley, who runs a non-profit early learning organization in Denver, Colorado, emphasized the importance of both state and federal commitments to funding early learning programs, said “Effective collaborations, such as those with school districts, create the systems to support children’s success. We know first-hand that early childhood education at the community level through programs such as CPP strengthens the public-private partnerships between school districts, community-based programs, and Head Start programs. We fully support continued encouragement of such partnerships to leverage all of the early care and education resources in local communities to create high quality choices for parents to help their children succeed.”

The hearing ended following questions, both technical and philosophical regarding the nature of early childhood investments and the best way to ensure that any federal funds spent on early learning are spent in the most efficient and beneficial way to the children and families that need them.