Older adult woman exchanges laugh with middle school child in classroom.

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Generations United promotes education policies that expand access to quality pre-k and early childhood education programs, facilitate the transition of more schools into intergenerational shared sites, assist and include grandfamilies, support multigenerational and civic engagement opportunities, and promote partnerships with older adult organizations to promote intergenerational programs. These initiatives should be included in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Head Start
Head Start is a child development and early education program that has served low-income preschool-aged children and their families since 1965. Head Start approaches the needs of the whole child and the family by providing health, education, social services, and parent-community involvement in one comprehensive program. The program’s clear emphasis on family and community involvement has intergenerational implications.

Quality child care, pre-k, and Early Head Start are critical to establishing brain development in children. By age two, a great deal of the architecture of the brain is established. By age five, brain development is significantly progressed in most young children. Studies show students who are active in pre-k programs have better outcomes as education progresses and have a reduced incidence of problems later in life, graduate in higher numbers from high school, and tend to go on to postsecondary education. Lifetime income is significantly greater for these students. The positive outcomes are a result of high quality early program experiences. Every dollar invested in quality pre-k can save taxpayers up to $7 over time in higher earnings, tax revenues, crime control, and reduced costs. Some of the intergenerational benefits of pre-k include minimizing the number of children needing special education, reducing crime and delinquency, and producing a more competitive workforce.

Head Start, Early Head Start, pre-k, and child care programs offer unique opportunities for older adult volunteers to assist program directors and provide additional one-on-one attention to children. The Recovery Act directs temporary funding to Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). However, substantial and sustained increases in federal funding are required for Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDBG to reach their full potential, and vital political and financial support is needed for expanded access to early childhood and pre-k programs.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization
ESEA was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 as part of the “War on Poverty.” The law emphasizes equal access to education and establishes high standards and teacher accountability. The law authorizes federally funded education programs that are administered by the states. In 2002, Congress amended ESEA and reauthorized it as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Congress is taking on the reauthorization of ESEA at the request of President Obama. President Obama released his reauthorization proposal, A Blue Print for Reform: Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (PDF). The forthcoming reauthorization will provide an opportunity to improve the existing law and Generations United provides the following recommendations to improve ESEA:

  • Federal funding and incentives for states to invest in quality pre-k and quality early childhood education addressing the birth to five continuum.
  • Including language to help facilitate the transition of more schools into intergenerational shared sites.
  • Local education agencies should include assurances that they will develop and implement strategies to address obstacles to grandfamilies.
  • Including language to support multigenerational and civic engagement opportunities in student curriculum.
  • Promoting partnerships with older adult organizations to promote intergenerational programs such as joint meal programs.
Grand Partners in Education Project
Generations United's Recommendations for Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Generations United's Impact Assessment of the 2011 Community Schools Act 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 
Letter to Senate HELP Committee with Recommendations for Reauthorization of ESEA from Generations United, joined by leading aging and intergenerational organizations (PDF)
Seniors 4 Kids' Legislation Can Increase Access to Quality Pre-k

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