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Leadership Groups Urge Congress to Expand Access to Early Education

UPDATED

Leaders of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of State Boards of Education sent a letter to Senate education committee members Friday, urging them to expand preschool opportunities for low-income families as they rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

My colleagues at Education Week's Early Years blog recently wrote about a U.S. Department of Education report that found that only roughly 40 percent of the nation's 4.1 million 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded preschool.

"Without a deliberate focus on children's preschool experience in our nation's education law, we run the risk of limiting opportunity for a generation of children by allowing educational gaps to take root before kindergarten," the education department's report states.

NASBE and NAESP want lawmakers to do more to address the inequities in access to high-quality childcare and ensure that the final legislation reflects a "strong commitment to the nation's young learners."

"Federal investment in early childhood education as part of the nation's K-12 education system is essential to ensure that all children, especially from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds who are at risk of beginning their primary education years behind their peers, have a chance to learn on equal footing," the executive directors of the associations wrote in a letter dated April 10.

"The new ESEA could be a powerful tool for helping more low-income students and their families accrue these benefits, and must be a national priority in any ESEA law," the letter continues.

The letter also touts the benefits of existing federal programs, the Preschool Development Grants and Early Learning Challenge, that are designed to support early learning opportunities.

UPDATE:  The link to the NAESP and NASBE letter has been updated.  

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