Getting a Head Start: Bill Would Provide Care, Early Education

Research is clear that strong childcare services and early education help children succeed later in school. That’s the idea behind the “Foundations for Success Act,” a bill introduced in February 2011 by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The legislation would provide childcare and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten. To participate, states would apply for grants in a process modeled closely after the Race for the Top competition for federal education funds.

Initially, 10 states would be chosen to launch the program.

Supporters say the bill has special relevance in the current economy, when many families are still struggling with unemployment and dwindling resources.

Critics argue that the concept of universal childcare and early childhood education, while potentially beneficial, is unaffordable.

But Sanders argues that this kind of program is essential for keeping the U.S. economically competitive with other countries and helping to speed along the economic recovery. The investment in our children now will pay off later, he argues.

Sanders’ bill is backed by the Children’s Defense Fund, a leading advocacy organization for children.

"There is valuable evidence of the rate of return on investments in the early years,” said Marian Wright Edelman, the organization's president.

“This bill will establish a high quality early care and education system that promotes children's social, emotional and physical development critical to their futures and the future of our nation," she added.