Early Childhood

Senate Panel OKs Early-Education Bill

By Alyson Klein — May 20, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In an unsurprisingly partisan vote, the Senate education committee has given its stamp of approvalp to legislation that would make President Barack Obama’s vision for expanding preschool to more low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds a reality.

Although the measure has strong backing from the administration—and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate panel—its political prospects are questionable at best. The bill was approved on a 12-10 vote, with no GOP support.

Republicans on the committee made it clear that they were uniformly against the measure, in part because it would create a new federal program with a price tag of more than $30 billion over the first five years. The bill doesn’t include any mechanism to cover that cost, and the administration’s proposal to pay for it—a new tax on tobacco products—has little support in Congress.

A companion bill has also been introduced in the House by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House education committee. It has a couple of Republican sponsors in that chamber—Rep. Richard Hanna of New York was the first Republican to sign on.

Republicans Skeptical

But House GOP leaders, including Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, have balked at the cost. Instead, they are likely to consider a much more limited early-childhood education bill that has already passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan margin: a reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which last got a makeover in 1996. GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, have their own prescription for improving preschool programs: offering states more flexibility with existing funds. Sen. Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, the top Republican on the education committee, introduced an alternative proposal that would allow states flexibility in spending nearly $20 billion in federal aid on early-education programs annually through block grants. The funds would be targeted to children in poverty.

“Our reluctance is pouring new money into a program that, to us, looks like a national school board for 3- and 4-year-olds,” he said.

And Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., whose state is a national leader in providing near universal preschool for 4-year-olds, said that while the bill’s “heart is in the right place,” Congress doesn’t have the money to create the new program.

Sen. Harkin said he would like to see the bill go to the floor this summer or fall, possibly just before the midterm elections. It would:

• Offer states that want to expand pre-K access matching grants, with the proportion of a state’s match increasing to 100 percent by the eighth year of the program.

• Give grants to school districts (including charter districts), high-quality early-education providers, or consortia of providers.

• Let states extend the program to children ages birth to 3 from low- and moderate-income families. States also could reserve up to 15 percent of their funding to help serve children from birth to age 3 whose families meet the income requirements.

• Require pre-K programs funded under the bill to meet certain quality standards, such as being full-day, and having teachers with a bachelors’ degree and demonstrated knowledge of early-childhood education.

A version of this article appeared in the May 21, 2014 edition of Education Week as Senate Panel OKs Early-Education Bill

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood Preschool Studies Show Lagging Results. Why?
Researchers try to figure out why modern preschool programs are less effective than the landmark projects in the 1960s and 70s.
7 min read
Black female teacher and group of kids coloring during art class at preschool.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Early Childhood What the Research Says A New Study Shows How Schools Can Maximize Full-Day Pre-K's Benefits
Researchers said principals played a key role in students' academic success through 3rd grade.
6 min read
Teacher Honi Allen, right, supervises as children test how far they can jump at the St. John's Preschool in American Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 28, 2023.
Teacher Honi Allen, right, supervises as children test how far they can jump at the St. John's Preschool in American Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 28, 2023.
Kyle Green/AP
Early Childhood What's Behind the Gaps in Early Intervention Services—And What It Means for K-12 Schools
The GAO says better data could help remove barriers to accessing early intervention services.
3 min read
Close crop of the back of a pre-school girl's head showing her playing with foam puzzle pieces of shapes and numbers.
iStock/Getty
Early Childhood What the Research Says 6 Challenges for Early Educators as Preschool Growth Halts
School enrollment for the nation’s youngest learners has nosedived—and could cause long-term problems.
4 min read
Close crop of the back of a pre-school girl's head showing her playing with foam puzzle pieces of shapes and numbers.
iStock/Getty