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Senate Budget Leader To Introduce Early Childhood Bill

Speaking both as an elected official and a former preschool teacher, Washington Sen. Patty Murray told a crowd of early-education advocates today that expanding access to quality preschool is a "moral imperative" and that she and other Senate colleagues plan to introduce a comprehensive bill that would align with Obama administration priorities.

Murray, a Democrat, is the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. But her remarks, which are embedded in the video below, mixed policy discussion with personal anecdotes. At a meeting in Spokane, Murray said that the local sheriff, Ozzie Knezovich, spoke of how he was a "Head Start kid." Murray said her own political career began when she learned her children's preschool program was going to be shuttered.

"One legislator in particular told me I was just a mom in tennis shoes—and I had no chance of changing things." But parents lobbied and were able to successfully save the program, where Murray ended up teaching before running for the local school board.

Murray's speech, which was hosted by the Center for American Progress, was part of a continuing effort on the part of early-childhood education supporters to provide traction for the Obama administration's $75 billion proposal to bolster state preschool programs.

Congress has shown little appetite for taking up new spending. Nevertheless, the senator said that she was planning to introduce a early-childhood education bill, along with Democratic Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa, Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

"I know all of us here realize how important this is. And unfortunately, I think we also appreciate how difficult it's going to be to get some of my colleagues on board," she said. "Given all we know about the impact of quality early education, and the success we've seen in Democratic and Republican states alike, this just shouldn't be a partisan issue."

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