Washington, D.C. (Nov. 13, 2013) — U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined a diverse coalition of lawmakers, advocates and military leaders to introduce the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, legislation to expand access to high-quality early learning programs for children from birth to age five.
Building on the framework put forward by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address, the bill focuses on four key goals: boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving low- and moderate-income families; increasing the quality of infant and toddler care offered by providers; supporting broad-scale quality improvements to child care programs; and encouraging continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.
“Early learning opens up doors of opportunity for all students, establishing a foundation for success in school and in life. The investments we make in our youngest keiki are paid back in full by enhancing our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act partners with states to build and expand their support for our youngest learners. I am glad that key elements from my PRE-K Act were included to help states like Hawaii create effective, quality state preschool programs. Mahalo to President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Chairman Harkin and the educators, business executives, military leaders and law enforcement officials who have made early education a priority,” said Hirono.
Hirono was able to insert several key measures in the bill from her previously introduced Providing Resources Early for Kids Act (PRE-K Act), including Preschool Development Grants to enable states to start up and expand their system and increased funding for Native Hawaiian students. Along with Hirono, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act was introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by Rep. George Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY).
The bill was endorsed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Child Care Aware, Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Council for Exceptional Children, Easter Seals, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Moms Rising, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Education Association, National Head Start Association, National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), National Women’s Law Center, Parents as Teachers, Ready Nation/America’s Promise Alliance, Save the Children, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Zero to Three.
Hirono hosted nearly 25 local education and business leaders today on a conference call to answer questions and explain how the legislation will affect Hawaii keiki.