Change-Makers: Advocating for Policies that Support High-Quality Early Education for Every Child

Jumpstart’s Vice President of Policy & Government Relations Mark Reilly meeting with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts about Jumpstart and AmeriCorps.

For twenty-five years, Jumpstart has trained thousands of college students and older volunteers to foster the development of language, literacy, and social-emotional competencies in young children from underserved communities across the country. Even as we provide the transformative power of our program to tens of thousands of children, we remain acutely aware of the needs of the millions of children in schools and communities in which Jumpstart does not yet serve. Jumpstart firmly believes that the most effective way to unlock the potential of each and every child and disrupt the cycle of persistent poverty in our country is to ensure that high-quality early education taught by qualified and effective educators is available to all.

To achieve this, Jumpstart established a Policy & Government Relations department in late 2016 to transform early childhood education in the United States through policy advocacy. Under the leadership of Mark Reilly, Vice President of Policy & Government Relations, the department builds collaborative relationships with key government officials and employs the full range of advocacy techniques, including public appearances, direct lobbying, coalition participation, and thought leadership and public education efforts. Jumpstart has also begun to mobilize our 47,500-strong alumni base and national network of expert leaders and champions to advocate for the change needed on the ground. This powerful group has the potential to inspire policy change, public support, and government investment in high-quality early childhood education through their voices, stories, and experiences.

Even as we provide the transformative power of our program to tens of thousands of children, we remain acutely aware of the needs of the millions of children in schools and communities in which Jumpstart does not yet serve.

Below are the largest accomplishments of our department from the past year in each of those categories. We are proud to share how their efforts have already sparked change on the local and federal levels.

Setting our Policy Agenda

Jumpstart’s Policy Principles

Jumpstart began Fiscal Year 2018 with the release of our Policy Principles, which outline the four core issues that guide our policy and advocacy agenda:

  • High-quality early childhood education (ECE)
  • A stable, well-trained, well-compensated ECE workforce
  • Access to affordable higher education with workforce training opportunities
  • A commitment to national and community service

In addition, Jumpstart recognizes that there are countless other issues that create and perpetuate the system of inequality and poverty which Jumpstart is committed to reversing. Thus, we have also mobilized around other issues that impact our members, children and families, educators, and communities.

Children from a Jumpstart Summer Program classroom in Atlanta.

High-Quality Childhood Education

  • Along with other leading early childhood advocacy organizations, Jumpstart advocated for Congress to double the federal investment in Child Care Development Block Grants (CCDBG), which passed and was signed into law in FY18. These funds are now being used across the country to increase access to and quality of programming for children birth through age five.
  • Following the successful doubling of federal funds for CCDBG, Jumpstart urged each state where we serve to invest its increased FY18 appropriation in quality improvements and the early childhood workforce. Jumpstart continues to monitor state investments to ensure states invest in quality and the workforce.

Stable, Well-Trained, Well-Compensated Early Education Workforce

  • Jumpstart was an early endorser and leading advocate of the Child Care for Working Families Act. The bill would make critical changes to the early educator workforce by requiring states to pay child care workers and early educators incomes comparable to elementary teachers with similar credentials. As part of the advocacy for this bill, Jumpstart assisted in the collection and delivery of a petition to members of Congress in support of the bill with 43,000 signers from across the country.
  • As part of Jumpstart’s advocacy for changes to the Higher Education Act that support future early educators, we urged Congressional leaders and the U.S. Department of Education to expand TEACH Grants to allow future early educators to qualify for the program. This change was included in the pending Aim Higher Act.
  • Jumpstart joined the Citizen’s Committee for Children in urging New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio to prioritize early educator wages and create pay parity between educators in child care and public school settings.

Why it Matters

Janelle Jones, Jumpstart member, Howard University, Class of ‘19

“Most people, even if they might have a heart for children, are discouraged from going into the field because they know it’s probably going to take even longer to pay off the loans they need to pay for school. There’s so many people I know that say time and time again, ‘I would love to be a teacher. I would love to work with children. I would love to do all those things in the education field.’ But they see [what’s happening in the field], and they’re like, ‘Well, I’m not going to spend all my money at school for a job where I’m not going make money.’ I feel like if some people had that financial aid, to go to school for it, they would consider pursuing that type of career. Any polices to do with Federal Work-Study or financial aid … could have a big impact on everyone in this field.”

— Janelle Jones, Jumpstart member, Howard University, Class of ‘19


Affordable Higher Education with Workforce Training Opportunities

  • Jumpstart has been a leading advocate in support of affordable higher education throughout the year as Congress has considered a reauthorization to the federal Higher Education Act. Jumpstart’s Higher Education Act policy recommendations, which we advocated for with members of Congress, include improvements to Federal Work Study, Pell Grants, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and the simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Most of our recommendations were included in the House Democrats’ reauthorization bill, the Aim Higher Act. Jumpstart was also instrumental in opposing provisions of the PROSPER Act, which would make college less accessible and affordable, particularly for low-income students and aspiring early educators. The PROSPER Act has not yet made it to the floor of the House of Representatives.
  • Jumpstart also endorsed the Debt-Free College Act, which would ensure that no student would need to take on a lifetime of debt to access higher education. This would allow countless future educators to pursue their career goals.

Why it Matters

Ade Tate, Jumpstart member, Howard University, Class of ‘20

“Jumpstart has helped me tremendously. It’s helped me gain experience along with being in my [Federal] Work-Study program, which helped me pay off my balance for this semester. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to return to Howard.”

“[But getting the aid wasn’t always easy]… When I filled out my FAFSA, I did it completely on my own. My parents didn’t know anything about it, and the process wasn’t clear. I’ve been chosen for verification every year that I have filled it out, probably because I really didn’t know what the questions were asking and there wasn’t really any guidance, especially not in high school, not from parents. Not even from the administration [at the University], they’ll kind of walk you through the process, but mostly it’s just like, ‘Here’s the forms. Do it.'”

— Ade Tate, Jumpstart member, Howard University, Class of ‘20

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri with Jumpstart team leader Carl Redmon from the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

National Service

  • Along with other national service advocates in the Voices for National Service coalition, Jumpstart advocated for increased funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in FY18, despite a presidential recommendation of elimination. Jumpstart partnered with National Board Member Joseph Castro, President of Fresno State, to publish an op-ed in the Fresno Bee in support of funding for AmeriCorps and Federal Work Study. Due to this advocacy, AmeriCorps received a seven percent increase. Jumpstart continued to advocate for increased funding for FY19 as well, which has now been passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President.
  • Jumpstart collaborated with several U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce committee members ahead of an oversight hearing on CNCS compliance, in which Barbara Stewart, the CEO of CNCS testified. During the hearing, Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02) highlighted Jumpstart’s work in his district as indicative of the need for AmeriCorps.
  • Jumpstart delivered testimony to CEO Barbara Stewart concerning her Transformation and Sustainability Plan for the agency. Jumpstart’s field staff also hosted her at a site visit in California this summer, where she was impressed by the members engaging with children in the classroom and has since praised Jumpstart publicly for its impact on developing the social-emotional skills of young children.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney reading with a Jumpstart child at Read for the Record in 2017.

Other Issues Impacting Communities

In addition to leading work relating directly to our Policy Principles, Jumpstart mobilized on other issues important to our members, children, and communities. We opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the disproportionate negative impact it would have on low-income families, urged Congress to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, spoke in support of Dreamers and immigrant children, and joined the advocacy efforts of several leading anti-poverty organizations on other issues critical to our families.

Child from a Jumpstart Summer Program classroom in Atlanta.

Looking Ahead

We know there is still much more work to do in the field, but we have already seen the impact our voice can make, and we are inspired to lead our team of champions, advocates, and other thought-leaders in the field to make a significant difference in the lives of children, families, and educators around the country. Come join us in the fight for children and families!

Click here to stay updated on Jumpstart’s policy work, or for more information about Jumpstart’s policy advocacy initiatives, please contact Mark Reilly, Vice President of Policy & Government Relations, at 857.413.4593 or

This story is featured in our 2017-2018 Annual Report.

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