Legislative Memo: NAfME Supports Early Childhood Learning Education Bill

On November 13th, staff from the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) attended the release of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. The event featured remarks by the primary sponsors of the bill, including Senate HELP Chairman Tom Harkin, House Committee for Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller, and Rep. Richard Hanna. Additional remarks were offered by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Save the Children Artist Ambassador and actress Jennifer Garner, parents, and members of the law enforcement and business communities.

Detractors of the bill, including Senate HELP Ranking Member Lamar Alexander and House E&W Committee Chairman John Kline, released statements that argue building on existing early learning programs is a better investment of resources.

However, NAfME strongly supports the legislation because of its potential to expand music learning opportunities for young children. According to language in the bill:

“The early childhood education proposal is a 10-year initiative to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children across the birth to age 5.

The bill would fund preschool for 4-year old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and encourage states to spend their own funds to support preschool for young children with family incomes above that income level.”

In addition, the legislation would “establish a new federal-state partnership with formula funding for 4-year old preschool, with a state match, to all eligible states, based on each state’s proportion of 4-year olds under 200% of the FPL. States would provide sub grants to high-quality, local providers, including local educational agencies (LEAs) and community-based providers (such as child care and Head Start programs) that have partnerships with LEAs. The bill also authorizes a new Early Head Start partnership with child care to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers.

If passed the legislation’s purpose is to establish a new federal-state partnership to provide access to high-quality prekindergarten programs for all low-income and moderate-income children to ensure kindergarten readiness.

 

Key provisions the Legislation:

  • Creates a High-Quality Prekindergarten Program
  • Serves children who turn 3 or 4 by the eligibility determination date (as used for school eligibility in the community in which the eligible entity is involved);
  • Requires high staff qualifications, including a bachelor’s degree for teachers;
  • Requires an evidence-based maximum class size and child-instructional staff ratio
  • Maintains evidence-based health and safety standards;
  • Offers a full-day program;
  • Provides developmentally-appropriate, evidence-based curricular and learning environments aligned with the state’s early learning standards;
  • Offers salaries comparable with K-12 teacher salaries;
  • Provides high-quality staff professional development;
  • Provides accessible comprehensive serves, including health, mental health, dental, vision screening, referrals and assistance in obtaining services (when appropriate), family engagement, nutrition and other support services as determined in a local needs analysis; and
  • Provides ongoing program evaluation.

Read a summary of the bill

Read a list of the bill’s supporters

Follow updates from NAfME’s Advocacy on Groundswell

Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, November 25, 2013. © National Association for Music Education