Salt Lake City, Utah – Research has consistently proven that investing in early childhood education is a solid decision that can have tremendous impacts on the future of our nation. But does Congress feel the same way?
In President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, he introduced a plan to offer preschool to every four year old in the nation. But how much money can Congress actually provide to make this dream a reality?
While the final deal to avoid sequestration warded off the vast amounts of cuts that Congress might have had to make, it keeps the budget relatively flat for the next two years. So where does that leave new initiatives to expand early child care and education programs?
“Unfortunately, it might be too early to have an answer for that,” says West Jordan child development expert Amy Moyes. “While we are delighted that there won’t be additional cuts in federal spending, there is still so much progress to be made to offer quality education to all children.”
“We were heartened by President Obama’s State of the Union address where he acknowledged the importance of early childhood education,” says Bethany Hosking, who with Moyes owns Learning Tree Schools. “We have dedicated our lives to providing exceptional early childhood education opportunities and love it when our government recognizes the importance of investing in such programs. Now we hope the dollars can be found to provide excellent educational opportunities for young children.”
So what exactly did the President’s address lay out?
The president proposed a new federal-state partnership to provide low and moderately low income four-year-olds with the opportunity to attend a high-quality preschool. His proposal also hopes to expand these programs to middle class families and provide incentives for full-day kindergarten policies. The program hopes to be financed through an income sharing model with each state. The hope is that the readiness gap will be closed, ensuring each child enters kindergarten ready to succeed.
And that means creating more of a supply of quality learning opportunities for these young children. The President would like to see a greater investment in a new Early Head Start Child Care partnership that would expand the availability of providers that serve children from birth to age three.
The President also recognizes the importance the home plays in creating children ready for success, so he has already committed $1.5 billion to expand home visitations. These visits include the most vulnerable children, and improve the child’s health, development and ability to learn.
Studies show that low income children have less access to high quality educational opportunities, which means they will enter school unprepared for success. In fact, children from low income homes who aren’t reading at grade level by third grade are six times less likely to graduate from school as their more proficient peers. But low income families aren’t the only ones affected, often middle class families cannot afford higher quality private education opportunities, either.
The United States is currently ranked 28th out of 38 countries for the share of four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education, as deemed by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. And when you factor in the number who are in high-quality programs, that falls to fewer than three in 10 children.
The cost sharing model proposed by President Obama will greatly expand access for high quality preschool programs for four year olds, which is music to the ears of Moyes and Hosking.
“All children deserve the ability to attend a quality preschool program,” says Moyes. “We pride ourselves on our excellent preschool and all-day kindergarten programs that not only push our children, but help them foster a love of learning that will serve them throughout their lifetime. Our hope is that all children are given the same opportunity.”
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