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House Committee Approves Bill for Preschool Funding

On June 25, the House Education and Labor Committee passed, 31-11, the Providing Resources Early for Kids (PRE-K) Act (H.R. 3289). The committee held a hearing on the bill on January 23 (see The Source 1/25/08). Sponsored by Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), the bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (P.L. 107-110) to direct the secretary of Education to award matching grants to states to enhance or improve state-funded preschool programs.

During consideration of the bill, the committee approved, by voice vote, a substitute amendment by Chair George Miller (D-CA) to authorize $500 million in grants annually over five years. The grants would be awarded to states to bolster state-based preschool programs through hiring additional teachers, increasing teacher salaries and benefits, and reducing class size. Rep. Miller said, “We have a strong moral obligation to make sure that all children in America have the support they need to thrive. We also know that supporting children, particularly in their youngest years, is the smart thing to do for our country and our economy.”

The committee rejected, 14-29, an amendment by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) that would allow the grants to be used for public or private preschool vouchers. The committee also rejected, 17-26, a second amendment by Rep. Price that would mandate increased costs incurred by the bill to be offset by cuts in other programs. In addition, an amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) preventing children of illegal immigrants from eligibility under the bill also failed, 18-25. Ranking Member Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) offered an amendment to Rep. Miller’s substitute amendment that would require states to use the funds for Head Start programs; the amendment failed, 18-25.

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