WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) is cosponsoring the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act, which was introduced today by Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), to establish an Early Learning Challenge Fund to help states build and strengthen systems of early learning. The goal is to provide more low-income children younger than five years old better access to high-quality learning and development opportunities.

“In child after child, we’ve seen proof that early education results in kids who are better prepared for the classroom and ultimately more successful in school,” Senator Coons said. “But there is a significant gap separating those who can afford such education and those who can’t. This bill will help bridge that gap and allow more low-income children access to the high-quality learning opportunities they need to succeed in school.”

According to a new brief released today by the Pew Center on the States, proven early childhood programs, like high-quality pre-kindergarten, are helping states like Delaware close the educational achievement gap, which helps produce the qualified workers that the state—and our nation—need for a prosperous future. The supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act was introduced to ensure these improvements continueSpecifically it will:

•        Help states raise the bar on program quality, improve workforce qualifications and create a seamless system of early care and learning that working families and children can rely upon.

•        Make funds available on a competitive basis to states that have demonstrated the greatest progress in establishing a system of high-quality early learning, as well as states that demonstrate a commitment to building a high-quality system of early learning.

•        Give priority to states that establish public-private partnerships and that leverage federal child care funds for the purposes of the Act.

•        Require that states provide a matching rate of 15 percent and an assurance that new funding will supplement and not supplant current funding used to support early learning programs.

“Education is a critical component of our strategy for making America more globally competitive,” Senator Coons said. “We need to make sure that the next generation of American inventors and entrepreneurs is given every opportunity to succeed, and that starts by making sure we get our children into learning environments as early as possible.”

The Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act is also cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Al Franken (D-MN). 

The bill is endorsed by the Center for Law and Social Policy, Children’s Defense Fund, First Five Years Fund, First Focus, National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Women’s Law Center, Pre-K Now and Save the Children.