Federal Legislation
July 1, 2009

H.R. 1755—Rural Early Education Access Act

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time. HSLDA is monitoring this legislation and will send out updates if the bill moves through Congress.

Summary:
H.R. 1755 will give the secretary of education the authority and funding to give grants to states so that the states may establish or expand early education programs for children who live in rural areas, and who are between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. HSLDA has concerns about this legislation, especially regarding the role of the federal government in education, protection of parental rights, and the content of some of these early education programs.

Status:

3/26/2009Introduced and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor

Sponsor: Rep. Phil Hare

Cosponsors:

Bill Summary and Status H.R. 1755

HSLDA’s Position:
Oppose.

Talking Points:

Early education is extremely expensive and has questionable results: HSLDA is philosophically opposed to any program expanding the federal government’s control over education. The federal government’s current involvement in early education (through Head Start, Early Head Start, and other programs), in particular, yields results that are inconclusive at best, and detrimental for young children at worst. Many studies show that any positive effects of early education and pre-kindergarten fade away beyond elementary school, and other studies suggest that young children may in fact be harmed by this premature removal from the home and involvement in the classroom setting at too young of an age. (See HSLDA’s article, “Smother Mother Strikes Again: Why Government Should Stay Out of Pre-K.”) Surely, the questionable results of early education cannot justify its exorbitant costs to taxpayers, especially when Congress has already appropriated billions of dollars toward early education in past and current budgets.

H.R. 1755 does not include any protection for parental rights: H.R. 1755 contains no language to clarify that early education programs funded through the grants would be voluntary. As a result, there is the danger that states may try to pass legislation which would create mandatory early education programs, using the grants from the federal government to help fund the program. In New Jersey, mandatory pre-school has already been proposed this year.1 Likewise, President Obama has spoken of early education, not in terms of ideals for some parents, but rather in terms of absolute value judgments, claiming that “early care and education for infants” is “essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten.”2 HSLDA urges that H.R. 1755 be amended to include language that “no federal funds may go to any state that creates a mandatory early education program.” In addition, HSLDA urges that H.R. 1755 be amended to include language ensuring that any early education programs in states receiving federal money be “opt in programs, not opt out programs.” These changes will protect homeschoolers, and families who do not choose to put their children into an early education program, from ever being forced to put their young children in a program that they believe is harmful to their children’s well-being. Parents, not government officials, should decide what educational model is appropriate for their 3-to-5-year-olds.

H.R. 1755 will increase government regulation of early education providers: Sections 6 and 7 of H.R. 1755 set forth numerous mandates that early education providers must meet in order to be eligible to receive federal money from the grants that are distributed to states. Section 6(a)(3) requires the early education provider to “implement a program that adheres to comprehensive early learning standards,” which includes “social-emotional development, approaches to learning, language development, and cognition and general knowledge” (Section 12(1)). Many parents may have a different idea of what their 3-to-5-year-olds should be learning. Section 7(a)(3) would require early education providers that receive any federal money to provide “health screening and referral services for children enrolled in the preschool program, including regular dental and vision screenings.” Nothing in these sections discusses parental control over what services their children may receive. Additionally, these regulations will hurt early education providers, and could lead to more regulation, particularly for the many small early education programs that are state licensed, but run out of an individual’s own home.

H.R. 1755 will increase the fiscal burden on states: Section 4(b)(3) of H.R. 1755 requires that in order for the state to receive a grant from the Secretary of Education, the state must provide assurances that it will spend more money on early education than in previous years. This will lead to increased pressure on the states to fund early education programs, at a time when many states have decreased revenue.

Notes

1. Tom Fitzsimmons, “12th District Legislators Call for Corzine to Delay Mandatory Pre-school program” (January 12, 2009), http://www.senatenj.com/index.php/district12/12th-district-legislators-call-for-corzine-to-delay-mandatory-pre-school-program/2047.

2. “A World class education,” http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/education/ (accessed April 21, 2009).

 Other Resources

The Heritage Foundation: “Does Universal Preschool Improve Learning? Lessons from Georgia and Oklahoma”

Cato Institute: “The Poverty of Preschool Promises Saving Children and Money with the Early Education Tax Credit” ( requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)