Making Critical Investments in Our Youngest Citizens

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

The Department of Education has unveiled a new grant opportunity to partner with states and local communities to expand the reach of high-quality preschool. The $250 million grant competition will provide thousands of additional 4-year-old children across the country with a high-quality preschool education. The Obama administration’s Preschool Development Grants program is a critical piece of the President’s plan to boost access to high-quality preschool and support early learning for every child in America, beginning at birth and continuing through school entry.

The return on our dollar is highest when we invest in our youngest children, and we have recent research showing that sufficiently scaled Pre-K programs in cities like Boston and Tulsa are having a significant, positive impact on children’s literacy, language development, and math skills. Still, only approximately 28% of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in state preschool programs in the 2012-2013 school year. The high cost of private preschool programs and insufficient funding for public preschool in many communities narrows options for families, especially those in low-income communities.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool education to every child in America. Last January, he challenged more Americans to join this effort — and governors, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, foundations, and policymakers have responded.

More than 30 states and the District of Columbia increased funding for preschool in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and 10 of these states increased funding by more than 20%. This school year, 11,500 more low-income children in California will enjoy high-quality preschool thanks to the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The State of Michigan also increased funding for Pre-K by $65 million for the second year in a row, adding more than 10,000 additional seats for 4-year-olds in state Pre-K for the 2014-2015 school year, and more than doubling overall funding for Pre-K in Michigan. Alabama, Connecticut, and Maine, as well as other states and dozens of cities across the country, like San Antonio, New York, Cleveland, and Seattle, have also established new preschool programs or are pushing forward with major expansions.

As we celebrate the expansion of high-quality preschool in states and cities across the country, President Obama continues to call on leadership in Congress to renew our federal commitment to our youngest children, and to the future of our country by partnering with states to provide high-quality Pre-K to every American child. There truly is no better investment in the economic security of our families and our communities than making sure our youngest citizens are ready to succeed in school and in life.

Cecilia Muñoz is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

3 Comments

  1. I am very glad to hear that more funding has been provided for preschool programs. I am also pleased to see that the state of Alabama is making strides in their efforts to give our little ones a good early start.

    Although funding for preschool programs has increased, I’m wondering whether the money is going towards building more preschool programs in different communities or if the money is being used to improve the quality of preschool programs?

    A few years ago a policy was passed to ensure that preschool programs were setting higher standards for their students and achieving them. If preschools aren’t able to make adequate progress in 5 years then funding is lost. Is the push for “high quality preschool education” programs going to lead to more test taking and accountability?

  2. I am an Early Learning Coordinator at Destination Imagination. Our programs are developed annually to ensure they are relevant and align to National Education Standards, STEM standards, ELA Common Core Standards and Mathematics Common Core Standards. Every year, with the help of parent volunteers, educators, and subject matter experts, we design new and exciting Challenges for student teams to solve.

    The Destination Imagination early learning program provides teachers with a framework which enables them to relate more effectively with students while preparing them for elementary grades. The Pathways set includes Social and Emotional Learning, STEM and Literacy concepts, and plenty of fun and engaging activities for school and at home.

    I am reaching out to you for assistance in getting our programs out to more of our under served communities.

  3. The challenge is to determine “high-quality” for each child and family and insure it is provided. Otherwise we may do more harm than good. The research also shows that poor quality care does that. This is a golden opportunity and no other president in my memory has ever cared this much about our youngest.

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