Meng and Polis Introduce Legislation to Improve Quality of Early Childhood Education in America
Oct 29, 2013
U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced legislation today that would improve the quality of early childhood education in America.
The measure, entitled the Early Childhood Education Professional Improvement Act, would strengthen our nation’s preschool workforce by creating a federal grant program for states to prepare, develop and support early childhood educators. As educators gain knowledge and skills through targeted professional development and support, the quality of early education in America will improve dramatically.
“Further strengthening our country’s preschool workforce is essential to providing our kids with a solid foundation for success and the first rate childhood education they deserve,” said Meng. “It is also a critical step toward the realization of high quality Pre-K for all American children. Only by investing in our kids can we ensure the future prosperity of America, and guarantee that it remains the strongest and most productive nation in the world. I urge Congress to pass this critical measure.”
“High-quality preschool is the most effective way to ensure that all children have a chance to succeed in school and in life,” said Polis. “I am proud to support this bill, which invests in our nation’s early childhood educators so that we can build a strong future for our children.”
“It is a given that high-quality early childhood education is crucial to building a strong foundation for children’s growth and development,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). “Sadly, inadequate preparation and low pay for early childhood educators lead to constant turnover and an unstable environment for kids. Rep. Meng’s bill is taking on this problem with much-needed legislation to provide grants to states to improve credentials, compensation and professional development for early education teachers.”
“The knowledge and skills of early childhood educators is key to quality experiences in programs for young children," said Rhian Evans Allvin, Executive Director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). "We are very pleased that this bill focuses on the specialized knowledge of preschool educators and importantly, provides them with the improved compensation that recognizes and values the importance of them as professionals."
The legislation would authorize the Secretary of Education to make the grants available to all 50 states. The funds could be used to:
· Provide scholarships for early childhood educators to pursue a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a closely related field.
· Support early childhood educators who have bachelor’s degree in a field other than early childhood education to attain a credential, licensure, or endorsement demonstrating competence in early childhood education.
· Provide ongoing professional development opportunities to preschool teachers and teacher assistants.
· Increase compensation for early childhood educators who are enrolled and making progress toward a degree in early childhood education and to provide parity of compensation upon completion of their studies.
Many studies illustrate the need to improve the quality of the nation’s preschool workforce in order to strengthen early childhood education. A recent University of Virginia study found that in observations of preschool classrooms across eleven states, teachers in less than 15 percent of classrooms demonstrated “effective teacher-student interactions.” In addition, four hundred retired generals, admirals and other senior military leaders recently sent a letter to Members of Congress in which they asserted that failing to improve quality and access in early education would threaten our national security.
The bill is expected to be referred to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Polis is a member of the Committee and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Meng is a founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus.
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