Last Wednesday, December 10, policymakers, nonprofit leaders, corporate interests and early childhood experts assembled in Washington, D.C., for the White House Summit on Early Education. President Obama convened the Summit just three weeks after signing the new Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 into law, and took the opportunity to launch a national conversation about early childhood and announce $1 billion in brand-new public and private investments in early childhood education.
“What makes America exceptional isn’t just the size of our economy or our influence around the globe,” Obama stated in his midday remarks. “It’s the promise we make to our children; the idea that no matter who they are, what they look like, where they start, how much their parents earn, they can make it if they try. It’s the essential promise of America — that where you start should not and will not determine how far you can go. We’re here today because it’s never too early in a child’s life to deliver on that promise.”
Expert panelists at the Summit emphasized that children who have had high-quality early education experiences are more likely to earn more throughout their life, graduate from high school, and stay out of prison. Furthermore, they are more likely to create stable families when they have children of their own. Research gives us a clear mandate to invest in early education, but the funding still needs to catch up. The President’s announcement on Wednesday that the federal government will grant up to $750 million for early learning across the country is incredible, but it’s just the first step in ensuring that all children have the resources and preparation they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Although much of the President’s rhetoric was centered around children’s preschool experiences, he did not discount the importance of early care and education for infants and toddlers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be awarding a total of $500 million to hundreds of communities for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships in 2015. In addition to providing high quality early care and education services for low-income infants and toddlers, Early Head Start programs provide their families with essential services related to health, nutrition, and social-emotional development.
The Summit also marked the beginning of a new “Invest in US” initiative, launched in partnership with the First Five Years Fund, a campaign to “build a better nation with early childhood education.” Although “Invest in US” is a demonstration of the federal government’s commitment to early education, it is also a call to action aimed at businesses, states, nonprofit organizations, and private funders, highlighting the almost $350 million that private funders are contributing in addition to the federal government’s $750 million. The “Invest in US” campaign also aims to build public awareness about child development and the place of early childhood education in the United States’ success. Celebrities including Shakira, John Legend and Julianne Moore have promoted the campaign and starred in public service announcements – accessible here – to show their support.
At All Our Kin, we hope that this new political momentum around early education continues to build, and that it results in an early childhood system that works for parents, providers, programs, and, of course, children.