Last week, we were warmly welcomed to Columbus, Ohio to visit one of our Administration’s new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grantees- The Ohio State University (OSU). During our visit, we saw first-hand how a robust partnership between higher education and early education, local government and the private sector, and the health and social service systems, can have a profound impact on children and their families. This partnership has made Columbus a beacon early learning community that truly “puts their babies first.”
The work underway to support children and families can be credited in large part to the outstanding leadership of local elected officials, including Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Mayor Andrew Ginther. We also applaud the leadership of OSU’s President Dr. Michael Drake who announced a second major investment in early learning in Columbus - the new Teacher Preparation Pipeline Scholarship- that will support 100 early childhood educators in obtaining a Bachelor’s degree for free. The scholarship program - a partnership with Columbus State Community College – supports the early care and education workforce as they continue their higher education journey from community college toward a clear pathway to attain a four-year-degree at OSU in early childhood education. Expanding access to America’s higher education pipeline through our nation’s community colleges is a top priority for President Obama and he has emphasized the importance of stronger transitions and articulation with our public higher education system. The great work going on in Columbus is a perfect example of the President’s vision to expand access to educational opportunity.
Today, more than ever, research helps us understand the critical role of early educators in children’s learning and development. We know the human brain reaches 80% of its adult size by age 3 and 90% by age 5. The experiences children have with their families and early educators strongly influence brain development and later educational outcomes. Unfortunately, we know that gaps in development begin to appear between our lower and higher income children as early as 9 months of age, and grow over time. Starting in kindergarten, and even prekindergarten, simply said- is not early enough. Our babies need access to early learning opportunities and their families need support much earlier in life. Columbus understands that and as a result, the entire community is coming together to put babies and families first.
President Obama understands that too. Through the President’s signature Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, we have expanded access- in Columbus and in 275 communities across America- to high quality early learning opportunities, reaching more than 30,000 additional infants and toddlers, and their families. But these Partnerships are doing more than expanding access for our youngest learners. They’re building capacity and infrastructure in the neighborhoods across our country that need it most- and for our children who need it most and would otherwise lack access.
During our visit, we had the opportunity to visit the state-of-the art Reeb Center, home to a comprehensive array of education, after-school, early learning, adult education programs, behavioral health, nutrition and job training programs that serve and inspire the community- from cradle to career. We heard from parents who spoke about the difference that access to reliable, high-quality early learning and child care makes in their lives. We visited with administrators, staff, and families that are part of a home visiting program funded by our Administration’s Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program. The mothers in the program shared their personal stories about the challenges they face and how the program helps them focus on staying healthy throughout their pregnancies. They shared their hopes and dreams for their children and their desire to go back to school to build a better life for their children.
The work in Columbus is a testament to what can be accomplished for young children and their families when a community truly comes together, building an effective partnership that draws from the strengths of all involved. It reminds us that improving early learning opportunities is a herculean effort that takes each and every one of us. It takes the public sector and the private sector, family leaders and elected leaders, all having a sense of shared responsibility and making a serious commitment. This work is not always easy. Meaningful cross-sector partnerships take time to build. But we know that making this vision a reality is possible. The good people in Columbus are leading the nation on the important work of giving all young children and their families- the high-quality early learning experiences they need to grow, learn, and thrive.
For more information about the President's Early Learning Initiative, visit:
Read the Year One Report on the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships at:
For more information about the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, visit:
For more information on President Obama’s proposal- America’s College Promise, visit: