Yesterday was a historic day at the White House. President Obama hosted an early education summit that included an announcement about increased resources for young children and families.
The White House Summit on Early Education brought together a wide range of stakeholders — mayors, school superintendents, members of Congress, philanthropists, funders, and corporate and community leaders — who shared their work on providing high-quality preschool programs.
And President Obama announced that states had won over $1 billion in early childhood grant awards. The president also announced an additional $330 million in private funding.
“Early education is a win for everyone,” Obama said in his summit speech. High-quality programs give children a strong start and they save taxpayer dollars. And as Obama pointed out, progress has been bipartisan. Red and blue states including Oklahoma and Georgia and New York and New Jersey have boosted their commitment to high-quality preschool.
“What makes America exceptional isn’t just the size of our economy or our influence around the globe,” Obama said, “[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.”
Other promising initiatives were also announced, including a new report, new outreach efforts, and the president’s call for the next Congress to work with Obama to “to make pre-K available for all of our kids.”
Strategies for Children’s President and CEO Chris Martes attended the summit with Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies’ Early Education for All campaign.
“What we saw at the White House,” Martes said, “was the unleashing of a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. Every day, more and more communities are investing in the kind of high-quality early education programs that will help our children grow up to become tomorrow’s success stories.”
$1 Billion in Funding
Massachusetts got great news at the summit. It is one of 18 states to win a Preschool Development Grant. The commonwealth will receive $15 million from the U.S. Department of Education. As the Boston Globe explains, “The state applied for $60 million over four years and was awarded its full request for the first year of the grant.”
Explaining the grant’s importance, Tom Weber, the commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care said, “In Massachusetts there are many families who want the benefit of a high-quality early education experience for their child but are unable to afford it. The federal Preschool Expansion Grant award will help meet this critical need through innovative partnerships that leverage the strengths of both public preschools and community-based early education providers.”
Five states — Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada — have been awarded development grants designed for states with little or no early education infrastructure.
Massachusetts and 12 other states — Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia — were awarded expansion grants to build on existing programs.
“The states that have received new Preschool Development Grants will serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.
The Impact in Massachusetts
“We did it,” Weber wrote in a letter announcing the Massachusetts award. Weber explains:
“Five Commonwealth high-need communities will partner with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to develop public school district and community-based provider partnerships for expanded preschool programming.”
Those communities are: Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield.
“Together these partnerships will provide a year of high-quality preschool programming for approximately 3,000 4-year-olds in the participating communities over the span of the grant. The funding will also support quality improvements in outreach and coordination of comprehensive services, assuring that young children’s development is supported and advanced in their home environments as well as in preschool settings.”
Congratulating the commonwealth, Strategies’ CEO Chris Martes said in a statement, “On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children, we applaud the Patrick Administration and the Department of Early Education and Care for its successful federal grant proposal for pre-kindergarten. This funding will help the commonwealth close the achievement gap by investing in high-quality early learning experiences for some of our neediest children.”
He adds: “It is our hope that new federal funding serves as a catalyst for the commonwealth to invest additional state resources in high-quality pre-k. Several more communities could benefit from pre-k funding in the years ahead, and we will continue to advocate and support state and local leaders in order to reach this goal.”
Infants and Toddlers
Focusing a spotlight on infants and toddlers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced additional grants.
“As the mother of young kids, early learning is a big part of my personal life,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “We’re awarding over $435 million in 234 different grants to help ensure more children across the nation will benefit from high-quality early childhood efforts. As a result, we expect that more than 30,000 additional children will be able to access Early Head Start, about a 25 percent increase in the size of this program. That’s a lot of young lives changed, and a lot of impact delivered.”
Among the initial grantees for the award of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership and Early Head Start Expansion grants are three Massachusetts organizations:
Community Action Inc., in Haverhill
Community Day Care Center of Lawrence, Inc.
Associates for Human Services, Inc., in Taunton
Grants will be awarded “on a rolling basis beginning January 1, 2015. The full allocation of $500 million will be awarded by the end of March 2015.”
The #InvestInUS Campaign
Yesterday also saw the launch of the Invest in US initiative. It’s “a new initiative created by the First Five Years Fund, a bipartisan non-profit organization, in partnership with private philanthropic leaders, in response to the President’s call for action,” according to a White House fact sheet.
Search #InvestinUS on Facebook and Twitter to learn more — or use that hashtag to post your support.
The Invest in US website lists the individuals, organizations, companies, and foundations that have made financial commitments to early education, including the Heinz Endowments, PBS and CPB, and Disney.
There’s also a link to a new White House report, “The Economics of Early Childhood Investments,” which notes, “The research highlighted here suggests that the investments we make in children today could benefit our economy in the long-run by expanding our skilled workforce and increasing their earnings.”
Getting the Word Out: Public Service Announcements
“During the summit, the First Five Years Fund also previewed a series of 60-second public service announcements that focus on different aspects of early childhood education, from home-based child care providers to preschool teachers,” the Associated Press reported, adding:
“Produced to highlight the importance of educating children in their first five years, actors Jennifer Garner and Julianne Moore and singers John Legend and Shakira each narrate a spot, ending with the tagline ‘When we invest in them, we invest in us.’”
Please join the effort to get the word out. Share the summit’s news in your communities and on your social media networks.
This is an exciting time for early education and care. And the more the attention the issue gets, the better off the nation’s children will be.