This will not come as a surprise to special educators: providing early childhood education to children and families supports later development and growth.
In fact, over a decade of research has found that quality preschool leads to a wide range of short and long term benefits including better educational outcomes, stronger job earnings, lower levels of crime delinquency, and even fewer referrals to special education.
And yet, access to preschool remains elusive for 2 out of 5 children across the nation.
Today, lawmakers announced their plan to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, building off of President Obama’s vision outlined in his State of the Union speech from earlier this year. Led by Sen. Harkin (D-IA), Rep. Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Hanna (R-NY), the Strong Start for America’s Children Act¸ endorsed by CEC, focuses on four key elements:
- Establishing a federal-state partnership to provide high-quality preschool to low and moderate income families;
- Increase the quality of infant and toddler care in center-based and family child care settings;
- Support quality improvements in the Child Care and Development Block Grant; and
- Encourage continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program
Importantly, CEC believes this legislation will foster collaboration with IDEA’s preschool and early intervention programs, which currently serve over one million infants, toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities. Research has demonstrated that young children with disabilities/developmental delays who receive IDEA’s early childhood services:
- Make substantial progress in building cognitive and social-emotional skills;
- Are better prepared for Kindergarten; and
- One-third do not use special education services once in school.
To demonstrate the broad support of early learning, policymakers, including Sec. Arne Duncan, were joined by business leaders, parents, law enforcement, military officials, and actress Jennifer Garner, each whom gave impassioned pleas to make early learning a national priority.
In fact, Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council, recounted a story whereby President Obama asked his top advisors what one issue, based on hard evidence, should the Administration pursue. The group, he said, agreed it should be early learning.
Sheriff Richard W. Stanek, a representative of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, noted “I’m the guy you pay later” when there is little investment in early education.
The line-up of speakers to support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act was impressive but it was the classroom full of preschoolers who engaged in their regular classroom activities prior to the start of the event that helped all remember the important impact this legislation could have on millions of children and families. (Check out this neat infographic from our friends at Zero to Three)
While there is still a long road ahead before this bill becomes law, CEC encourages you to contact your members of Congress to support early learning programs for infants, toddlers and preschool children with disabilities. Congress is now debating future funding levels which will directly impact children with disabilities – get involved today!
Contacting Congress is easy using CEC’s Legislative Action Center! (and it only takes a minute!)