Throughout the country, there is a tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning. Fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality preschool programs, and yet, the importance of early learning is clear. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
In a recent speech during the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that we have reached an important turning point in the debate over early learning. “Demographic, economic, and ideological forces are all combining today to propel a big expansion of high-quality early learning,” Duncan said. “We just need Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.”
In his speech, Duncan provided ten reasons why states and the country will see a dramatic expansion of high-quality early learning over the coming few years:
10. There is much greater public awareness today of the importance of the early years to the long-term health, learning, and success of our children and our communities–and it is coupled with widespread public support for a big expansion of early learning.
9. A powerful, bipartisan coalition of governors are funding expansions in the states—in some cases, big expansions—of high-quality early learning programs.
8. There is a remarkably diverse and robust coalition of law enforcement officials, military leaders, clergy, CEOs, unions, parents, and others that strongly support expanding high-quality early learning opportunities.
7. The old arguments that states should have no role in providing low- and moderate-income families with voluntary access to early learning and child care have lost force.
6. There is a growing recognition that quality matters tremendously when it comes to early learning.
5. For the first time, a majority of the states are now assessing the school readiness of children when they enter kindergarten.
4. The enactment of third grade reading laws in many of your states is going to propel an expansion of high-quality early learning.
3. America is way behind high-performing countries in our provision of early learning–and there is a growing awareness that high-quality early learning is critical to sustaining our international economic competitiveness.
2. America is currently in the midst of an unprecedented wave of innovation and capacity-building when it comes to early learning–and a new federal-state partnership helped unleash this wave of innovation.
1. The enormous unmet need and demand for high-quality early learning.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education