Washington D.C. – Today, the bipartisan child advocacy organization the First Focus Campaign for Children hails the introduction of the Strengthening State Systems of Early Learning Act by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). This bill would provide funding and resources to states for building and strengthening “systems” of early learning and development so that more children, and particularly poor and disadvantaged children, ages zero to five, can have access to high-quality early childhood learning and development programs.

The bill will help states increase the quality of their early childhood programs, improve workforce qualifications and development, and create a seamless system of care and learning that children and working families can rely upon. Funded at $350 million for fiscal year 2012, the bill is a well-developed policy framework of the Administration’s call for an early learning challenge fund to support these goals.

Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, issued the following statement:

“The Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act is a major step forward for children from birth to age five and beyond. In recent years, several states have made important progress in building streamlined and seamless ‘systems’ of early learning and development. But it is not enough. As a nation, we need a more unified approach. This bill will provide states with the resources and funding they need to build and strengthen integrated and coordinated systems so that all children, and particularly poor and disadvantaged children, can access the developmental care, tools and learning they need to grow and thrive in the critical early years.

“For far too long, many states have overseen a variety of early childhood programs without a unified purpose or strategy to optimize outcomes for children. The Supporting State Systems of Early Learning does not create yet another new early childhood program, but on the contrary, helps states unify and integrate what are often fragmented and confusing early childhood funding streams and programs. If we truly want to serve the best interests of young children and ensure they are successful and ready to learn when they enter the K-12 system, this bill will help us achieve that goal.

“It is also a crucial and highly cost-effective investment in young children that will pay off in multiple ways, particularly with children’s later success and productivity in America’s 21st century workforce. The data is irrefutable – investing in high quality early childhood programs produces a return, conservatively, of 10-18 percent. This bill is a win-win for every child in America and our nation’s economy. The time for this kind of investment in our youngest children is now. We commend Senator Casey for this forward-thinking and visionary bill that will take early learning and development to the critical and necessary next stage.”

Joining Senator Casey as co-sponsors on the introduction of the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning were Senators Durbin, Murray, Franken and Coons. In addition to the First Focus Campaign for Children, the bill has been endorsed by leading children’s groups including: Center for Law and Social Policy, Children’s Defense Fund, First Five Years Fund, National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Women’s Law Center, Pre-K Now, and Save the Children.