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Governors Tell Congress: Early Education Just as Crucial as Health Care, Tax Reform

The nation's governors told Congress earlier this week that they considered early childhood education policy to be on par with big-ticket issues that often grab more of the spotlight.

In a Thursday letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate education committees, the National Governors Association said that "education and care for our youngest learners is equally important to our nation as health care, tax reform and investments in infrastructure." 

The letter, written on behalf of the NGA by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, connected early education to larger issues, saying that investments in programs for young children ultimately lead to a stronger workforce. They go on to say:

Every dollar of current federal investment in early childhood education and child care is critical to augment state efforts to construct and maintain this foundation. However, current federal programs and investments in early childhood must be programmatically aligned, focused on quality, and updated to maintain the pace of state-level early childhood innovation. A redesign of the federal early childhood education system would allow for these state-driven ideas to thrive.

Among the policy recommendations Sandoval and Inslee laid out for federal lawmakers:

  • "Refraining from using funding mechanisms that would ultimately lead to a reduction in quality or federal support for early childhood education and child care."
  • "Reauthorizing current federal early childhood education programs together to allow greater coordination, alignment, flexibility and equity among state and local programs."
  • "Considering any proposed new early childhood education and child care programs or tax credits in regard to how they will complement current programs."

Although President Donald Trump's administration has put an emphasis on expanding support for child care, early educational programs overall haven't really been a focus so far. The House budget bill approved by a subcommittee on Thursday flat-funds preschool development grants (administered by the Department of Health and Human Services) at $250 million for fiscal 2018, and gives a relatively small boost to Head Start, which is overdue for reauthorization. 

A House education subcommittee also held a hearing on early childhood education programs earlier this week. 

Read the NGA's full letter to federal lawmakers below:

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