(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Ready to Learn Act, which would help prepare children for kindergarten by providing funding for states through a competitive process to establish and administer voluntary preschool programs. This legislation would also support governors who want to build on pre-existing early childhood systems including schools, child care entities, Head Start programs, or other community providers of pre-kindergarten programs. The Ready to Learn Act was co-sponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN).
“As a former preschool teacher, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that high-quality early childhood education has on the success of our children,” said Senator Patty Murray. “When children enter kindergarten ready to learn, they are well on their way to success in school and beyond. And if we want our students to come out of schools ready to compete and win in the 21st century economy, we need to make sure they start off on the right track. So my bill will help families and communities across the country provide their children with the strong educational start they deserve.”
Research has shown that the early years are critical in a child’s development and that pre-kindergarten education offers benefits extending through the first years of school and beyond.
Children who attend high-quality pre-k programs are less likely to be held back a grade or to need special education, and they are more likely to graduate from high school. They also have higher earnings as adults and are less likely to become dependent on welfare or involved in crime.
The Ready to Learn Act will help prepare children for kindergarten by providing funding for states to establish high-quality early learning programs to promote school readiness for four-year-olds in their state. Funding will be allocated to states through a competitive process to establish and administer voluntary preschool programs, while allowing governors to build on pre-existing early childhood systems. Schools, child care entities, Head Start programs, or other community providers of pre-kindergarten programs are all eligible for sub-grants.
To ensure high-quality programs that properly prepare children to be ready to learn, state plans will require qualified teachers, a developmentally, culturally and linguistically appropriate early learning curriculum and support for professional development.