News Releases

EARLY LEARNING: Senator Murray Applauds HELP Committee Passage of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act

May 14 2014

Murray: “Today, we took an important step forward to expand preschool programs.”

Murray: “I’m looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to pass this legislation into law.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded the committee passage of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, a bill that would expand access to quality preschool programs.

“Today, we took an important step forward to expand preschool programs by passing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act out of committee. As a former preschool teacher, I know firsthand that early learning is critical to childhood development and can pay off well into adulthood,” said Senator Murray. “Expanding educational opportunities to more children shouldn’t be a partisan issue, so while I was encouraged to see Democrats on the committee vote overwhelmingly to expand preschool programs, I hope more Republicans will come to recognize the benefits of preschool programs and will work with us to pass this bill and give our kids a stronger start for their future. Investing in early learning would not only help our youngest children and pay dividends in future economic growth, it would also empower millions of women who would be able to go to work knowing their kids are learning and thriving.”

Key elements of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act:

Access to Preschool for 4-Year Olds

  • Formula funding is provided to states, with a state match, for high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten for four-year old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
  • States in turn provide sub-grants to local entities to offer children high-quality prekindergarten, which includes:
    • Teachers with high qualifications;
      • Rigorous health and safety standards;
      • Small class sizes and low child-to-staff ratios;
      • Instruction that is based in evidence and is developmentally appropriate;
      • Comprehensive services for children, including strong parent and family engagement, nutritious meals, and health screening and referrals.

Early Learning Quality Partnerships

  • New Early Head Start and child care partnerships are supported to improve the quality of child care for infants and toddlers through age three.
  • Local Early Head Start agencies contract with local center-based child care programs and family child care homes serving infants and toddlers to raise child care program quality through training and technical assistance.
  • These partnerships will meet the high-quality performance standards of Early Head Start and blend federal funds to provide high-quality, full-day care for young children.

Home Visitation

  • The bill expresses a sense of the Senate that federal funding for voluntary, evidence-based home visitation programs be continued.

It was recently found that 80 percent of Washington state’s four year olds are not enrolled in state or federally funded pre-k. Senator Murray has frequently spoken in support of expanding access to early childhood education and recently wrote an op-ed calling on Republicans to support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.

Read more about the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, as introduced in November.

See a full list of national organizations supporting the bill.