Federal Legislation
August 12, 2013

H.R. 791—“Continuum of Learning Act of 2013”

Action Requested:
No action is necessary at this time. We will send out an action alert if H.R. 791 is scheduled for a hearing or vote.

H.R. 791 would make early learning guidelines part of federal law by adding it to Titles I and II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. This would give the government more power over the education of children at an even earlier age. HSLDA has long opposed the federal government’s attempts to increase control over early education and to put more young children into public early education programs.

2/15/2013 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce
4/23/2013 Referred to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

Sponsor: Congressman Jared Polis (CO-2)

Bill Summary H.R. 791

HSLDA’s Position:

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed by Congress in 1965 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Congress is supposed to reauthorize ESEA every six years. There is nothing in the act currently that specifically deals with early learning, generally considered to be pre-kindergarten education. H.R. 791 would for the first time involve the federal government in our nation’s preschools.

What are the problems with federal involvement in preschool?

Problems arise on both a philosophical and practical level. At the fundamental level, H.R. 791 assumes that children benefit from early institutionalized education in public schools, instead of remaining with their parents or in private preschool programs. While H.R. 791 would not require children to be put into public schools at an early age, it could be used to encourage the states to lower their compulsory attendance statutes to require even very young children to be put into school.

1. This violates the fundamental right parents have to direct their own children’s education. This right is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and was upheld by the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510 1925); Wisconsin v. Yoder (406 U.S. 205 at 233); and Troxel v. Granville (530 U.S. 57 2000).

2. The notion that parents are not adequate teachers and mentors for their children is empirically untrue. As found in a large study in the United Kingdom, children who are raised (especially at early ages) in their own homes by their own mothers and fathers fare significantly better developmentally than those placed in institutional environments at an early age.

3. Non-experimental studies of Head Start and experimental studies of statewide early education programs show little to no gain at best to students enrolled in early education programs. A massive six-year study of 35,000 children by Durham University shows that children enrolled in early education programs have no developmental advantage over their peers who did not enroll in any schooling before they enter primary school. A 2007 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study found that children enrolled in institutionalized education were more likely to exhibit problematic behaviors, such as bullying and aggression, for several years afterwards. An Education Next study on the universalized kindergarten found that the long-term effects of this 60s and 70s program are negligible at best, with slightly lower dropout rates for upper-middle class children, and no positive impact on other children. Finally, when reviewing the early education pilot programs in Oklahoma and Georgia, the Heritage Foundation determined that despite high state spending, “neither state has experienced significant sustained improvement in students’ academic achievement as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

 Other Resources

HSLDA Analysis—“Early Childhood Education: What the Empirical Studies Show”

“Federal Government Threatens Parental Rights with Early Learning Challenge”

“Head Start to Nowhere?”

“Putting the ‘Nanny’ in ‘Nanny State’

“Universal Preschool’s Empty Promises”