Senate HELP Committee Advances the Advancing Research in Education Act (AREA) – First Five Years Fund

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On December 12, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 20-1 to advance S. 3392, the Advancing Research in Education Act (AREA), bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chair of the HELP Committee, and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, introduced the legislation earlier this month. Since it was signed into law in 2002, ESRA has made educational data collection more robust and authorized various federal government efforts to collect statistics and conduct research on education from early childhood through post-secondary education and the workforce. 

ESRA is an important support to all education programs, and its reauthorization is an opportunity to support state and local efforts to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities through improved research and data, which play vital roles in shaping the policies and practices that support children’s learning and development.

In April, in response to a Request for Information from the HELP Committee on policies to consider in ESRA reauthorization, FFYF wrote a letter encouraging Congress to strengthen research on early care and education (ECE) and improve early learning data access and use within states to empower educators and policymakers to enhance the quality and outcomes of early learning programs. 

The new reauthorization bill takes important steps to improve education research and evidence use, as well as collect and connect data from early childhood through K–12 education, postsecondary education, and the workforce. Specific to early childhood, this legislation would:

Support at Committee Markup

At the Committee markup, Chairman Sanders highlighted that the bill will help modernize how states track student data and outcomes from preschool to college to allow for the identification of gaps and opportunities for young people. Ranking Member Cassidy outlined that the bill addresses concerns from both researchers and education leaders by improving education research conducted at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), enhancing evidence used in the classroom, and strengthening the dissemination of such evidence to improve student outcomes.

What’s Next?

The bill now advances to the full Senate for consideration, which is one key step in the reauthorization of ESRA. FFYF commends the HELP Committee for advancing AREA and recognizes this as a significant step forward in incorporating ECE in research and data efforts.  A section-by-section summary of the bill is provided by the Committee here

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