Actress Jennifer Garner, artist ambassador for Save the Children and wife of Cambridge-bred actor/director Ben Affleck, and Mark Shriver, Save the Children’s senior vice president of U.S. programs, were on Capitol Hill recently touting the benefits of high-quality early education. They write about it in “Preschool for All: The Time has Come” on Huffington Post. “We were thrilled to join Senators Robert Casey and Barbara Mikulski,” they write, “to launch a new effort to ensure that every toddler in America gets access to a quality early childhood education.”
The June event coincided with Casey’s introduction of two bills to ensure that all children have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten and child care. Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Mikulski, who also sits on the committee, is a Maryland Democrat.
“The Prepare All Kids Act (S.1156) will assist states in providing at least one year of high quality pre-kindergarten to children,” according to a news release from Casey’s office. “The bill will provide voluntary high quality pre-kindergarten education to all children, with a focus on children from low income families and children with special needs.”
Another bill that Casey introduced, the Starting Early, Starting Right Act (S.1155) “will give states resources to offer child care assistance to children who are currently on waiting lists and help states meet the needs of underserved children,” the news release states.
In their Huffington Post column, Garner and Shriver note that only 60% of U.S. young children are enrolled in a formal preschool program.
“The science on early childhood education is unequivocal. If the United States were to make a deep investment in this overlooked part of the education spectrum, we’d diminish many social ills, including juvenile crime and teenage pregnancy; we’d increase high school graduation rates and family incomes; and, according to the Brookings Institute, we’d add $2 trillion to the gross domestic product within a generation,” they write.
“Two out of five kids in America walk into kindergarten not fully prepared for school. They’re already behind. And so is America. This year, America will graduate a small fraction of the number of engineers — a key to our economic future — than China and India will. In Hollywood, it’s all about the story: the beginning, the middle and the end. Here’s the early education story so far: We’re not preparing our kids for school. Our kids are falling behind. Now America is falling behind.”