Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., urged Vermont lawmakers Wednesday to do what Congress has been unable to -- support early childhood education.

Sanders told members of the House and Senate Education committees that unless the U.S. ensures that "every child receives a quality early childhood education" the country risks falling further behind other developed nations.

"We have got to end the absurd notion that public education begins at age 5," Sanders said.

He said access to early education can help children, especially those in poverty, break that economic cycle.

Sanders said that while Congress is unlikely to pass President Barack Obama's $75 billion early education plan, Vermont lawmakers can act on their own.

Sanders said the state recently received $37 million in federal funds to bolster pre-kindergarten programs.

"This is a good start," he said. "But we must do more to ensure that quality programs are created for families to help educate their children."

Sanders also spoke about the rising cost of higher education.

He cited statistics showing that the U.S. has dropped from first to 15th in the world in the percentage of population that attends college. He said the nation's rate of people going to college is the same as it was 30 years ago.

"How do we compete in a global economy if we have descended from first to 15th in the world in terms of people with college degrees?" he asked.


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