The United States has a fragmented and inadequate system of early childhood care and education. Most children do not receive high-quality opportunities; only those whose families have the means to provide them receive their benefits. Market-based and privately financed services operate separately from publicly funded programs and serve different populations with different levels of quality. Often, there is little coordination between different programs that serve the same child over the course of her or his early years. This lack of coordination contributes to growing inequities in later educational and adult outcomes. We propose a 10-year strategy for a coordinated set of reforms to significantly improve and integrate the major public and private early childhood programs into a coherent whole. The goal is to better meet children’s needs, with a special focus on leveling the development and learning gaps that exist before kindergarten. The strategy consists of paid parental leave, child-care assistance for children with working parents, universal early education that starts when children are 3 years old, and a re-envisioned role for Head Start to reach the most disadvantaged children with intensive services from birth.


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pp. 47-55
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