Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised progress made by Congress today as the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), HR 3221, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would move away from subsidizing private lenders to a direct loan program and reinvest nearly $90 billion in savings over the next 10 years into several initiatives, including the Early Learning Challenge Fund, which will be jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Together, we will ensure that children enter kindergarten ready to learn," Duncan said. "Education and, in many ways, success in life begins with high-quality early learning experiences. We know that increasing the number of high-quality early learning opportunities, especially for low-income families, improves child outcomes. Research shows children who receive such services are less likely to be referred to special education and more likely to graduate and be successful adults. All children deserve these early opportunities to reach their full potential. I want to thank Chairman George Miller for sponsoring this legislation and for his leadership on this issue."
"I am delighted the bill has passed this important milestone," said Sebelius. "By improving the quality of early child development and learning, we can give children a strong start in life. Nothing is more important to their long term health and success. I hope the Senate will act to make this important investment in America's future."
The President's Early Learning Challenge Fund would create a unique and unprecedented collaboration between the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, incorporating two key funding elements:
QUALITY PATHWAYS GRANTS, as awards to high-capacity states pursuing models of reform and excellence in early learning. Innovative plans would already reflect significant progress toward establishing the elements of a comprehensive, high quality early learning system needed to improve quality and learning outcomes for children, and a desire to take such improvements to scale.
DEVELOPMENT GRANTS, as awards to a set of states that show promise for strengthening and expanding their early learning systems, but need additional assistance to launch a standards-based, outcomes-driven system.