We have an opportunity to give every child in America an equal chance to succeed, regardless of your background or where you live. For the past several weeks, Secretary Duncan has been traveling the country talking to educators, parents, business and faith leaders and other community members about the importance of investing in early learning.
Last week Duncan stopped in Denver, where he visited Clayton Educare School and dropped into Mr. Burks’ pre-k class of 3-5 year olds. Secretary Duncan walked into a warm and welcoming classroom of students and teachers, and after giving a round of high fives to the students, he found his way to a special reserved seat next to Mr. Burks.
After taking attendance, the students and Secretary Duncan participated in a play and story time. Duncan was handed an orange hand puppet while behind him a scary looking monster was projected onto the screen. After the brief story ended, the students ended the visit with a brief song and dance.
From the classroom, attention moved to the 200 plus attendees gathered across the campus for an early learning town hall. Joined by Joe Garcia, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, military, business and faith leaders, Duncan and the other panelists made the case for early learning investments.
“We have to close the opportunity gap,” said Duncan while remarking that studies show children at risk for school failure have less access to high-quality early education to prepare them for success in school. That opens an educational opportunity gap that can stand between them and success for the rest of their lives.
Under the President’s Preschool for All proposal, Colorado is estimated to receive $41.8 million in the first year alone. This funding, combined with an initial estimated state match of $4.2 million, would serve over 5,000 children from low- and moderate-income families in the first year of the program across the state.
As the kids in Mr. Burks’ class showed, investing in early learning is an investment in the future. They deserve the best shot possible to succeed. In that classroom today, could be the next great leader or thinker of tomorrow. Together these investments can continue to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class.
Cameron French is deputy press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education