On April 29 The Century Foundation and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) hosted a Capitol Hill briefing for the launch of a new report, A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education on quality and equity in early childhood education.

The event featured a panel of the report’s authors, TCF fellow Halley Potter, Jeanne L. Reid of Teachers College, Columbia University, and Michael Hilton from PRRAC. TCF president Mark Zuckerman introduced ranking member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, who delivered the keynote address.

“I’d like to thank The Century Foundation and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council for releasing their findings. We’re trying to make decent public policy, but you can’t do it without good research,” said Congressman Scott before he delivered a poignant speech on the inequality and discrimination that continue to haunt our society.

“We know that quality in early childhood education can yield higher graduation rates, greater college attendance, greater job rates, higher revenues, fewer arrests, less incarceration,” he said. And yet there still remains a lack in opportunity for low-income children who “already start falling behind by the time they get to kindergarten.”

Congressman Scott summarized the root of such issues saying:

Sixty years ago the Supreme Court faced a segregated nation in Brown v. Board of Education. They concluded that it is doubtful that any child could reasonably be expected to sustain a life if denied the opportunity of an education. They then went on to say that if you provide an education, then you have to provide it on an equal basis. We know that we don’t have equal education on our record because you fall behind with public education, there’s still achievement gaps, which in and of itself violates the Brown decision. Equal opportunity. How do you say that if white kids get the proper education, then black kids get the lesser education, that’s not equal. So we need to do everything we can in quality preschool.

Philip Tegeler, the Executive Director of PRRAC who moderated the panel discussion, explained “as we ramp up our investment in early childhood education, we need to consider diversity as a key element to preschool quality,” which set the stage for a comprehensive discussion of the challenges described and explored in A Better Start.

View the slides presented at the event, with narration from the report’s authors in this webinar on A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education:

The full, downloadable version of the report can be accessed here. The press release announcing and containing additional highlights from the report can be accessed here.