Renewing Childhood’s Promise: The History and Future of Federal Early Care and Education Policy

Today’s federal early care and education policies are fragmented, inefficient, and unnecessarily complex. Recent efforts to fix current policy have fallen into four categories—tinker, expand, add, and eliminate—none of which actually improve the lives and opportunities of disadvantaged children. Since the 19th century, the US has gone from one program to the next—orphanages, home care, child care, Head Start, and pre-K—by a circuitous, unintentional path. Over time, these policies have drifted from their core purpose. The best way to advance good early childhood policy is to facilitate, rather than constrain, states’ commitment and innovation, giving states additional flexibility with federal funds and shifting the ultimate control of resources to parents.

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