WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last week, Congress sent H.R. 1429, the bipartisan Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act, to the president’s desk for his signature. The president is expected to sign the legislation.

“More than ever, the health of our economy and ability to compete in a global market depends on having a highly-skilled and well-educated workforce and that means investing in proven early childhood education programs like Head Start,” Edwards said. “This legislation not only invests in the education our nation’s young children, it invests in the future of our nation.”

The bipartisan conference report expands and improves the successful Head Start early childhood education program, improves classroom and teacher quality, raises the qualifications of teachers, and increases funding for teacher and staff salaries and professional development. The authorization for the Head Start program actually expired in fiscal year 2003 after previous Congresses failed to enact a Head Start reauthorization bill. The new 110th Congress has now successfully broken that stalemate and enacted a bipartisan bill that the president is expected to sign.

“Head Start has been the premiere early childhood education program in the U.S. for more than 40 years and has helped more than 20 million children and families in that time. This bipartisan legislation expands and improves Head Start’s ability to help more children achieve success, and arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed,” Edwards said.

This critical bipartisan bill improves and expands the Head Start program, with provisions to:

Improve teacher and classroom quality, including improving teacher qualifications and increasing teacher salaries; Strengthen the focus on school readiness, including requiring the Head Start program to use the latest and best science on early childhood brain development in its curriculum and materials; Provide access to Head Start for more children, with higher authorization levels for Head Start and a priority on the expansion of Early Head Start, which serves children from birth to age 3; and Impose strong accountability measures, to better ensure that Head Start funds are used appropriately and efficiently and under-performing programs are either replaced or quickly improved.

Research has found that children enrolled in Head Start programs are less likely to need special education services, repeat a grade or commit crimes in adolescence and are more likely to graduate from high school.

Edwards is a member of the House Budget and Appropriations committees.