Drawing on her experience advocating for early education programs across the country, Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner helped launch bipartisan legislation on Capitol Hill Wednesday that would dramatically expand early learning opportunities in America.
“As moms, we all want our children to do the very best they can, in school and in life. But, early education opportunities are out of reach for so many families in this country. As a result, children enter school already behind and at risk of never catching up,” said Garner.
“All children deserve the chance to succeed, but right now millions don’t get one,” she said. “With this legislation, we have an historic opportunity to give the nearly 1 in 4 children living in poverty a chance at a brighter future.”
As a Save the Children artist ambassador since 2009, Garner has traveled the country visiting the organization’s early education programs in impoverished rural communities. The award-winning actress, mother of three and daughter of a retired West Virginia teacher came to Washington to help announce the introduction of the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.”
The bill would build upon President Obama’s early education proposal announced in his February State of the Union address by helping states fund preschool for all 4-year-olds of low-income families, and by expanding additional early learning opportunities from birth to age 5.
Garner joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the bill’s cosponsors, Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), to unveil the legislation alongside preschool children, parents, educators, and members of the law enforcement, military, and business communities.
Currently, two out of five American children don’t attend preschool before starting Kindergarten. Low-income children are the most likely to fall behind before school starts, with research showing they can lag more affluent peers by 18 months by age 4. A new Stanford University study shows the developmental gap can already be six months by the time a child turns 2.
Preschool and earlier interventions, such as voluntary home visiting programs for the most vulnerable children, level the playing field by helping children of all backgrounds enter school ready to succeed, said Save the Children.
“Once kids fall behind, it gets more and more expensive to get them back on track as they get older,” said Save the Children Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Mark Shriver, who also attended Wednesday’s event.
“Why wait until they fall behind in the first place? If we care about our children’s future and our nation’s economic prospects, there’s really no better investment than early education,” he said. “Save the Children strongly endorses the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.”
Earlier this month, Shriver and Secretary Duncan visited a family in Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program in Eastern Kentucky, and then joined an early learning town hall attended by local and state leaders of both parties.
Learn more at www.savethechildren.org/early.