On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) into law. This measure reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ending an eight-year effort to rewrite the legislation that was known as “No Child Left Behind.”
Overall, the new bipartisan measure authorizes funding through FY 2020, and would eliminate the federal accountability system, the so-called Adequate Yearly Progress, and make states responsible for setting up their own accountability systems.
ESSA includes numerous early education and child development provisions in Title I as well as official authorizations for the Promise Neighborhoods and Full-Service Community Schools programs, both of which include early learning components. However, the most significant early childhood achievement in this legislation is the authorization of the Preschool Development Grants program.
The Preschool Development Grants program provides assistance to states to develop, update, or implement strategic plans, build partnerships with Head Start providers and other public and private organizations, and provide parents with the most options available with regards to early education opportunities. Low-income, disadvantaged students, as well as students living in rural areas, would be the priority population to be served under this program. This program will be jointly administered by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and is authorized at $250 million annually from FY 2017-2020.
States may use funds to support strategic planning and implementation of their state early childhood mixed delivery systems, focused on improving the school readiness of “low-income and disadvantaged” children and improving transitions into the K-12 system. The strategic plans must address how states intend to use resources in order to:
- Align and strengthen the delivery of existing programs by more efficiently using federal, state, local and private resources;
- Coordinate delivery models and funding streams;
- Improve both participation and program quality while maintaining the availability of services; and
- Improve parental choice among existing programs.
Other highlights of ESSA include:
- Establishment of a new competitive grant program to support early learning literacy initiatives
- Amending State plan requirements under Title I on how early learning programs would be served
- Reauthorizes grants supporting Native American children and communities, which may be used for early education services,
You can review the legislation here. The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will publish more information on Preschool Development Grant implementation soon.