CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY: When it comes to early childhood, states should lead the way

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In testimony before the House Committee on Education and Workforce, early childhood expert Katharine Stevens discussed the importance of early childhood development, identified the two core problems federal early childhood policy faces today, and suggested that state leadership is the best path forward:

The first problem is that integrating disparate federal funding streams—each constrained by its own administration, rules, and monitoring frameworks—to best serve children and families at the state and local levels is difficult at best and often impossible.

The second problem with current federal programs is that they incorporate the commonly made but false distinction between the “care” and “education” of children, reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of early learning and development. Research has established that young children are continuously and rapidly learning, wherever they are and from whomever they are with, starting at birth. So while we have long thought of “school” as where children learn, the reality is that every environment—whether home, school, or childcare—is a learning environment for young children.

The best path forward is to identify, support, and highlight the work of leading, innovative states, focused on advancing whole families through a two-generation human capital development strategy that simultaneously enables adult work and supports young children’s learning and development. Our goal should be to amplify the impact of currently siloed programs, aiming to build states’ capacity to support low-income families and give America’s least-advantaged children a fair chance at a good life.

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