U.S. Senator Patty Murray has introduced legislation aimed at encouraging states to do more to prepare children for kindergarten.
Called the Ready to Learn Act, the bill would establish a competitive grant program for states to create or expand school-readiness programs for four-year-olds.
“My goal is to incentivize states to invest in what they need to be doing to make sure we have access for early childhood education for our kids,” Murray said today during a visit to Washington state. “There are so many studies out there about how this investment makes a difference.”
States would have to match the federal grants dollar for dollar.
The amount of money that might be available to states is not yet clear. Murray’s bill would establish the program, and the funding would be determined as part of the federal budget. Murray said she’s trying to build on the momentum from President Obama’s proposal, made in his State of the Union speech, to make high-quality preschool programs available to every child in the country.
Murray said that the fact that so few young children in the United State have access to early childhood programs is appalling. In Washington state, she said, only about a fifth of the eligible four-year-olds attend pre-kindergarten programs.
“We just have not had a strong enough focus on it nationally,” she said.
A few years ago, Murray, a former preschool teacher, successfully pushed for changes that gave the U.S. Department of Education the ability to use some of the money in its Race to the Top program for early learning. Washington was one of the states to receive a Race to the Top early learning grant.