In an open letter to policymakers released Wednesday, more than 500 researchers urged the expansion of and increased public investment in early-childhood education.
Arguing that critics of greater investments in early education “ignore the full body of evidence,” the letter states: “Existing research findings are sufficient to warrant greater investment in quality programs now.”
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and the non-profit First Five Years Fund, both of which advocate for more and better early-childhood education options, released the letter jointly along with 58 “founding signatories.” They include well-known researchers in the early-childhood field such as Daphna Bassok at the University of Virginia, Douglas Clements at The University of Buffalo, Greg Duncan at The University of California, Irvine and Susan Neuman at New York University, among others.
An additional 483 people involved in early-childhood education research and practice at the university level also added their signatures to the letter.
Critics of the effort to expand public funding for early-childhood education have called for more conclusive evidence on the value of large public preschool programs, arguing that the best results so far come only from small, expensive programs. Some lawmakers have also argued that the federal government already spends enough on early-childhood education through programs like Head Start and the Child-Care and Development Block Grant program, which provides states with funds to offer low-income families vouchers for subsidized care.
Meanwhile, many states and cities have been slowly expanding their early-childhood education programs. Recent election results in Seattle and Denver and new investments in Chicago and Indianapolis look to be continuing that trend.
A statement by NIEER and the First Five Years Fund announcing Wednesday’s open letter, however, emphasizes the writers’ desire to see federal, not just state, action on the issue.
“Federal investment is vital to help ensure child care, home visiting, Head Start and other programs have the necessary resources to provide high-quality services consistent with the science of early learning,” according to the statement.
Whether or not newly elected lawmakers will listen to this plea as they get ready for their move to Washington, D.C., remains to be seen. One thing seems certain: Early-childhood education advocates are not about to let the new composition of the U.S. Congress deter them from spreading their message.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.