Senator Bob Casey has been fighting for universal pre-K for years, but he hopes this bill may be the chance to finally accomplish it. Yesterday Senator Casey introduced the “Strong Start for American Children Act” at a major press event in the U.S. Capitol.
To bring attention to the legislation, the Senator held a press conference in the Capitol with top lawmakers as well as featured actress Jennifer Garner, who spoke about the importance of early childhood education. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling were also in attendance.
“One of the most important steps we can take for our economy and our children is to invest in early education,” Casey said. “Having access to pre-K will better prepare our children in an increasingly competitive global economy. Every child deserves a chance to develop their talents, and pre-K is essential to doing that.”
The bill focuses on accomplishing four important 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.
In a statement announcing the legislation, Senator Casey’s office noted that only 16.5% of Pennsylvania’s 3 and 4-year olds are enrolled in publicly funded pre-K.
It is difficult to determine how likely it is that this bill will be taken up by Congress, which has been severely gridlocked for the past few years. Casey, however, attempted to make the case that this legislation is of national importance.
“There is reflexive ideological resistance to any new initiative or any new investment,” Casey said. “But that we can be the kind of nation we aspire to be without a commitment to early learning doesn’t make a lot of sense.”