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High-quality early care and education helps give children the boost they need to succeed in school, provides parents with the support and peace of mind they need to be productive at work, and strengthens our economy in the short- and long-term. That is why funding quality early childhood programs that ensure more Kansas children have the tools they need to succeed in school and in life is a good investment. Research shows that for every dollar invested in early childhood education, the state saves at least $7 down the road. Those savings come from such outcomes as fewer criminals in our justice system, fewer adults on public assistance, fewer teen pregnancies and a stronger workforce.

The Metropolitan Council on Early Learning (MCEL) supports local, state and federal public policies and investments that will increase access to high quality early learning programs for Greater Kansas City area children and families. MCEL, in collaboration with local, state and national partners, endorses the following goals and policy recommendations for the 114th Congress.

2016 Policy Recommendations 

Expand Funding for Head Start and Early Head Start:

Over a million young children are served by Head Start and Early Head Start programs nationwide. Since 1965, Head Start has helped more than 30 million children build the confidence and skills they need to succeed in school and to become the leaders, taxpayers and productive citizens of the future. Head Start and Early Head Start serve vulnerable children and families, primarily children whose families have incomes below the poverty line or receive public assistance. Head Start also addresses families' unmet needs — for housing, job training, health care, emotional support and family counseling— that may stand in the way of a child's full and healthy development. Unlike many other early childhood programs, Head Start helps the whole child. Its four components — education, social services, health care and parent involvement — are each essential to prepare low-income children to enter school ready to learn. In Greater Kansas City more than 4,300 children and their families are served by Head Start or Early Head Start by seven grantees each year. Currently Head Start serves approximately three out of five eligible preschool children and Early Head Start serves only three percent of the eligible infants and toddlers.

The Metropolitan Council on Early Learning urges Congress to maintain and increase funding for Head Start and Early Head Start.

Universal Voluntary Pre-K:

The economic and societal benefits of high-quality early childhood education for all young children, beginning at birth and continuing through the early grades, are better known and appreciated than ever before. Early childhood as a distinct period of life has value in itself as well as a foundation for later school, work, and life success. Yet we still lack the full policies and resources needed to create an education continuum, grounded in our knowledge of child development, which addresses appropriate standards, curricula, and assessments, along with the specialized teacher professional preparation and support, and with comprehensive services for children and families.

Preschool remains costly and of insufficient quality for many young children. Community providers struggle to hire and retain teachers with specialized knowledge and credentials because they lack the resources to make salaries of preschool teachers comparable to those in public schools, even though the teachers have the same degrees and credentials. Most states have provided some financing of prekindergarten access, however they vary greatly from state to state in the standards, the hours of services, and the financial resources to meet high-quality standards.

The President’s prekindergarten proposal proposes a new federal-state cost sharing partnership to expand high-quality prekindergarten. These funds should be available to child care, Head Start, and school settings that can meet research and evidence-based standards for quality, including appropriate ratios and class size, developmentally appropriate curricula and teaching practices, teachers with early childhood education credentials, family engagement, and comprehensive services for children who need them.

The Metropolitan Council on Early Learning urges Congress to fund the President’s early childhood initiatives to provide state-federal cost sharing partnership to expand high-quality prekindergarten programs to 4-year-old children, targeted to serving children under 200 percent of poverty.