The current presidential administration has made it a priority to expanded access to early care and education. Specifically, the American Families Plan proposes two major enhancements: reducing the cost of child care to American families and providing universal access to preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. I applaud these proposals; my nearly 50 years of experience in the field of education has convinced me that early learning experiences have tremendous impacts on children’s long-term success.
My experience has also given me insight into how to structure legislation that ensures an effective investment in early care and education. As we pursue President Biden's early care and education (ECE) priority, it is critical that we include research as a major feature in its design. Research is necessary to support the efforts of local programs and schools in creating the early learning programs and services our children and families deserve and need to maximize their full potential. I co-founded PEER because I believed ECE policymakers, program operators, and participants in Connecticut would benefit from the research it conducted on early care and education.
As we strive to make early care and education accessible to all U.S. families, research that captures and uses data throughout program design and delivery will make it possible to identify and foster effective practices. I also believe that including funding for research throughout the first 10 years of program implementation is essential to ensure the durability of the ECE expansion efforts. Years ago, my friends, the late Dr. Ed Ziegler and Ambassador R. Sargent Shriver reminded me how critical it was that the initial Head Start legislation included support for data collection and research. That research armed legislators and local policymakers with the evidence necessary to protect the program from the many efforts to weaken or eliminate it over the years that followed.
It is essential that elected officials provide adequate support for the design and delivery of high-quality early care and education programs that can deliver on the President’s promise to support working families and ensure strong early learning experiences for our children. That support must include adequate funding for those who provide care AND funding for robust research that can ensure program effectiveness and sustained investment.