Less than a month after Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced bold new investments in high-quality early education, President Barack Obama last night proposed “working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.” With governors in states around the country putting early education on their 2013 agendas, momentum is building to invest in the early learning years that research finds produce substantial returns for children and society alike.
Here’s what Obama said in his State of the Union address:
These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing — all these things will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.
And that has to start at the earliest possible age. Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But 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 a 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.
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, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, 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.
The proposed new investments in high-quality early education that Governor Patrick’s proposed in his fiscal year 2014 budget request are now before the Legislature. Massachusetts readers, click here to urge your legislators to support the governor’s recommendation.