WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 5, 2014 -
The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a full committee hearing entitled, “The Foundation for Success: Discussing Early Childhood Education and Care in America.” During the hearing, members discussed the federal investment in early childhood development, and explored opportunities to better support the nation’s youngest citizens.
“Early childhood education and development programs can have a lasting influence on a child, laying the foundation for future success and achievement in school, the workplace, and life,” said Chairman Kline. “Since the 1960s, the federal government has played an active role in helping children – especially those in low-income families – gain access to critical early care and development services.”
However, Chairman Kline continued, “A 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office [found] 45 federal programs linked to early childhood education and care operated by several different federal agencies.” Chairman Kline shared an infographic illustrating the dozens of existing programs that provide or support federal and state early childhood education and care. He noted that many of the federal programs, such as Head Start, are in need of serious review and improvement. “This should be our first priority, not rubber-stamping a 46th federal program,” Chairman Kline said, alluding to President Obama’s call for universal pre-k.
Kay Brown, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), discussed the disjointed federal early childhood education and care system. “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.” Ms. Brown recommended a renewed focus on program coordination and evaluation to ensure programs are more effectively serving children and taxpayers.
Dr. Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, Senior Fellow and Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, reiterated the importance of reassessing the current federal system of early childhood programs. “I’ve spent a lot of time in childcare facilities that were under the sway of federal legislation… I observed classrooms that I would have been pleased to have my own children attend, but I also saw far too many situations that made me want to cry… 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.”
In addition to federal and state programs, there are a number of successful private-sector early childhood programs. Dr. Elanna Yalow, Chief Executive Officer for Knowledge Universe Early Learning Programs, explained the value of public-private partnerships in strengthening early childhood education. “For instance, Knowledge Universe participates in the state voluntary pre-k programs in Florida and Georgia, among others, and we participate in a number of Head Start partnerships in Ohio. All these varieties of public-private partnerships could be better utilized to provide more children and families access to a high-quality early learning experience that best meets their family’s needs.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Kline said, “No one denies the importance of early childhood education and care. But we simply do not have unlimited resources, so we must focus on ensuring our existing federal investments are getting maximum results. As the committee continues to discuss the early childhood programs in its jurisdiction, such as Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, we will focus on exploring opportunities to strengthen the programs through enhanced coordination and transparency, while also taking steps to ensure the programs prioritize serving children and families most in need.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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