Yesterday, I joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a meeting with early education stakeholders who are working to advance a call that the President made in his State of the Union address. These organizations shared with the Administration all they have been doing to raise their voice and their support all over the country to advance the President’s proposals for early education.
In the State of the Union address the President said:
Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That's something we should be able to do.
The President has called for three proposals to support our youngest Americans: Preschool for All, Early Head Start-Child Care Parnterships, and an expansion of the Home Visiting program. These are proposals we should implement because the beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success later in school and in career. Leading economists agree that high-quality early education programs can help level the playing field for children from lower-income families on vocabulary, social and emotional development, while helping students to stay on track and stay engaged in the early elementary grades.
Children who participate in high-quality early education programs are more likely to do well in school, find good jobs, and succeed in their careers than those who don’t. And research has shown that taxpayers receive a high average return on investments such programs, with savings in areas like improved educational outcomes, increased labor productivity, and a reduction in crime.
But the President’s proposal also extends beyond ensuring all 4-year-olds have access to a high-quality, public pre-kindergarten class, it also includes home visiting programs for low-income families, to ensure new parents have access to the help and support they need from local nurses or other care-givers, and it includes funding for additional high-quality learning programs for children from birth to age three. By making these critical investments, the President will put resources where we know the return on our dollar is high: in our youngest children.
Yesterday, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services also teamed up release a new web video that provides an easy to understand explanation of the plan. Anyone looking for even more information can visit obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/earlylearning.
Check out the video and send it to a friend – as the President also said during the State of the Union, “let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.”