Early Learning: America's Middle Class Promise Begins Early
"I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America... 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."
-- Barack Obama, Feb. 12, 2013
The foundation of a thriving middle class is access to a strong education for every child. But millions of children in this country are cut off from quality early learning. We are committed to closing that gap by working with states to ensure quality early learning.
Far too many children lack access to preschool. The need for early learning is clear, as studies prove: children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school. [expand/collapse]
The goal is to enable every American 4-year-old to attend a quality preschool program — one characterized by well-organized learning experiences, guided exploration, art, and storytelling, led by a skilled teacher. In addition, the Department of Education will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to significantly expand and improve services to younger children.
The Administration proposes a new partnership with states that would provide universal, high-quality, full-day preschool for 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families, up to 200 percent of the poverty line. [expand/collapse]
The President's budget proposes $75 billion to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year olds. Funding would be provided to states and distributed to local school districts, or local school districts in partnership with other early learning providers, to offer high-quality preschool programs. An additional $750 million would provide for competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems. Learn more in the early learning budget summary.
A close partnership with Health and Human Services
This expansion builds on a close partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the past, the Department of Education has worked with HHS to unleash state-level innovation through a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, which rewards states that raise the bar on quality and provide links with health, nutrition, mental health, and family supports. [expand/collapse]
Several states have demonstrated what is possible in expanding access to early learning. In Michigan and Massachusetts, for example, Governors Rick Snyder and Deval Patrick have made expanding access to preschool programs a priority. In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley has proposed new resources to rapidly expand early education. These leaders represent a bipartisan consensus that America can't win the race for the future by holding back children at the starting line.
- President Obama's comprehensive early learning agenda
- State Fact Sheets on Proposed Federal Funding for Preschool for All
- Printable Two-page Version of this Early Learning Page [PDF, 317KB]
- Congressional Justification for School Readiness, Fiscal Year 2014 Request [PDF, 82KB]
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Budget Crosscutting Document: Investing in Early Learning
- The President's Budget Request for FY 2014
- Presentation on Federal Investments in Early Learning and Development [MS PowerPoint, 3MB]
- Office of Early Learning, Department of Education
- Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services
- Early Learning Policy
- Early Learning Research
- Sign up for our listserv and monthly newsletter from the Office of Early Learning
- Homeroom Blog Posts and Articles on Early Learning
- The Early Learning Field's Turning Point, June 27, 2013
- Secretary Duncan’s Opening Remarks at "The Obama Preschool Initiative" Panel, May 29, 2013
- Secretary Duncan’s Remarks at the National Head Start Association Conference, May 3, 2013
- A Level Playing Field, an Equal Starting Line, March 19, 2013
- Smart Investments in Early Learning, March 1, 2013
- Updates and Past Notices
- Serving Preschool Children through Title I – Non-Regulatory Guidance [PDF, 4.29MB]
- Programs That Support Early Learning
- Early Learning Resources
- Federal Technical Assistance for Early Learning