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Juan Jose Gonzalez
Chicago Director

Juan Jose manages all policy and organizing aspects of Stand Illinois' education advocacy in Chicago.

Recently, the First Five Years Fund formally submitted comments to Education Secretary John King, highlighting again the importance of ensuring all kids a strong educational start to their lives. Stand for Children Illinois joined over 30 other organizations as co-signers of the letter.

Much like my colleague Donna explained, early childhood education is a huge issue for me. As a dad with two small children, this issue hits about as close to home as any educational issue could for me right now. I also understand how important the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is, not only for kids like mine but for kids all across Illinois and America. What could be more important than ensuring every child – regardless of where they live or who their parents are – receives the education they deserve? ESSA is about civil rights for our students, making sure all students get quality educational opportunities.

The letter that the First Five Years Fund sent responded to proposed regulations under the new ESSA law. Rather than treating early education as separate from a child’s later education, the letter pushes for regulations that facilitate state-access to federal funding that would allow them to develop and implement systems to promote school readiness by investing in early learners. As the First Five Years Fund wrote, “Access to high-quality early learning opportunities prior to elementary school profoundly impacts the healthy development and learning of young children.”

The comment letter clearly states: “Congress expressly names early learning as an area for states, districts and their partners to elevate, expand and better integrate with K-12 education. This decision creates significant opportunities for new and exciting collaboration between early learning programs and elementary schools. High-quality early learning programs improve education, health, and economic outcomes for our nation. Increasing children’s access to these opportunities and promoting seamless and supportive transitions to elementary school will place more kids on a path to college, and career, readiness.”

As Donna said last week, I’m proud that Stand joined the letter with the First Five Years Fund and other organizations. Stand fights for improved educational opportunities for all students, and as a father of two young boys, I’m glad to see our youngest students included.

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