Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: No Place for Expanded Preschool and Childcare Subsidies

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind, may serve President Obama’s vision for universal preschool if Congress reauthorizes and expands it to fund new federal preschool programs and subsidies. However, there are already 45 federal early learning and childcare programs, and most families already have preschool or day care arrangements in place. Research suggests that extending federal subsidies will benefit primarily middle-income and upper-income families, while disadvantaging private preschools and day care providers. Rather than further extend federal intervention into early childhood education and care, which would add to current redundancies and likely mimic the poor results of Head Start, Congress should support provisions to allow states to opt out of federal spending and programs under ESEA, allow states to make their Head Start dollars portable while sending funding responsibility to states, and reform the 529 college savings account structure to make pre-K costs eligible.

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