The White House has released details of President Obama’s call for universal preschool in his State of the Union address. He is calling for preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, as well as reaching children from middle class families and offering incentives for expanding full-day kindergarten. He is calling for expansion of Early Head Start and home visiting.
For details, see the White House Fact Sheet President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans. Here’s a summary:
- Preschool for all. The president’s goal is to reach all 4-year-olds whose families are at or below 200% of the poverty level. “The U.S. Department of Education will allocate dollars to states based on their share of 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families and funds would be distributed to local school districts and other partner providers to implement the program,” the fact sheet states. To qualify for the federal program, states would need state-level early learning standards, qualified teachers and a plan for comprehensive data and assessment systems. The plan calls for “common and consistent standards,” including well-trained teachers earning salaries comparable to K-12 teachers, small class sizes and low adult-child ratios, health and other services, and program evaluation and review. Funds could also be used to expand full-day kindergarten.
- Quality early learning for our youngest children. President Obama’s plan calls for a new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership that would expand high-quality Early Head Start and child care for children from birth through age 3. Funds would be awarded on a competitive basis. The plan also calls for expanding evidence-based home visiting programs, which “have been critical in improving maternal and child health outcomes in the early years, leaving long-lasting, positive impacts on parenting skills; children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development; and school readiness.”
“The beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success later in school and in life,” the fact sheet states. “Leading economists agree that high-quality early learning programs can help level the playing field for children from lower-income families on vocabulary, social and emotional development, while helping students to stay on track and stay engaged in the early elementary grades. Children who attend these programs are more likely to do well in school, find good jobs, and succeed in their careers than those who don’t. And research has shown that taxpayers receive a high average return on investments in high-quality early childhood education, with savings in areas like improved educational outcomes, increased labor productivity, and a reduction in crime.”
See also Obama Visits Georgia to Rally Support for Preschool Plan from the New York Times.