WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) introduced two piece of legislation today designed to expand access to and improve the quality of early education programs. The Total Learning Act provides assistance to community partnerships focused on implementing advanced early education curricula, modeled after the renowned Total Learning program at utilized with great success by Action for Community Development in Bridgeport. The Supporting Early Learning Act establishes two competitive grant programs to help states implement or improve early learning systems, particularly for children in low-income areas.

“Early childhood education is one of the smartest investments we can make. It leads to better academic, professional, and social outcomes for children while also improving our workforce and our communities,” said Himes. “Connecticut has made strides in expanding access to early education for our children, but much of the rest of the nation lags behind. These two bills build on the early education success we’ve seen in Southwest Connecticut and would complement the important work the President has done to advance early education and ensure that all of our children have the leg-up they need to succeed in school and contribute to our economy.”

The Total Learning Act promotes multi-modal teaching, intensive parent involvement, and access to important social services. The program has a proven track record in Bridgeport, with independent evaluations demonstrating strong gains in language in literacy skills by children who participate in the program.  The bill uses the lessons learned from this experience and scales the approach for use at the national level by providing grants to eligible community partnerships to assist in the implementation of advanced early learning curricula.

“We at ABCD are most pleased with the introduction of this bill and extremely grateful for the efforts of Congressman Himes in seeking its enactment,” said Charles B. Tisdale, Executive Director, ABCD, Inc. regarding the Total Learning Act.  “Total Learning has proven to be a remarkable success in reducing the achievement gap in Bridgeport schools and promises to be equally successful in school systems though out the United States.”

The Supporting Early Learning Act expands on historic investments by the Obama Administration into early education by establishing the Early Learning Challenge Fund to support states in building and strengthening their high-quality early learning and development programs. The bill authorizes $350 million for this program in its first year to support two competitive grant programs – Quality Pathways Grants and Development Grants. Funds from both grant programs will be used to implement or improve early learning systems, to help these programs meet and sustain higher levels of quality standards, and to move more low-income children into higher quality programs.

Research has shown that public investment in early childhood education has significant social and economic benefits, particularly for low-income children.  Early education investments have been shown to increase rates of high school graduation, college attendance, and college completion. They raise the quality of the workforce, enhance the productivity of schools, and reduce crime, teenage pregnancy, and dependency on the social safety nets.  Despite these enormous benefits, only 28 percent of four-year-old children in America are currently enrolled in a pre-K program.