For months we have been sharing our excitement about the increasing focus on early childhood education in Connecticut. We have seen many victories, most recently in Governor Malloy’s proposal to create an Office of Early Childhood. Now, we are thrilled to say that the momentum around early childhood education is truly national, reflecting the “new and fresh vision for change from our nation’s leaders” that Bruce Lesley of First Focus called for just a few weeks ago. In his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, President Obama made a bold statement:
“…today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That’s something we should be able to do.”
Less than two days later, the President followed up on this bold statement with a bold plan of action. Early on the morning of February 14, the Obama Administration released a detailed early childhood education plan that focuses on both access and quality.
The main components of the plan are:
- A state-federal partnership to guarantee pre-K to all 4-year-olds in families at or below 200 percent of the poverty line, to be provided by school districts and other local partners, and to use instructors with the same level of education and training as K-12 instructions.
- A massively expanded Early Head Start program — building on the existing program, which has proven very effective in randomized controlled trials — which provides early education, child care, parental education, and health services to vulnerable children ages 0 to 3.
- Expanding the Administration’s evidence-based home visiting initiative, through which states are implementing voluntary programs that provide nurses, social workers, and other professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect them to assistance that impacts a child’s health, development, and ability to learn.
(Many thanks to The Washington Post for this information)
As the President moves forward with this plan, and with his second term in office, it is extremely encouraging to know that the President values early childhood education both for its immediate benefits to children and families, and for its long-term impact:
“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children… show students grow up more likely to… graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So 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.”
We look forward to seeing this action plan carried out in the years to come. We especially look forward to the opportunities and experiences that our children will benefit from as the result of a national priority on early childhood education, and to the rewards that our nation will reap once our youngest citizens are given the foundation they need to succeed.