On July 9, 2013 a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee
approved initial funding for parts of President Obama's Early
Education For All proposal, intended to assist
states in expanding access to high quality preschool for at-risk four-year-olds.
In his State of the Union speech in January, the President, noting that "our
nation has lagged in its commitment" to early education, announced a bold $75
billion federal investment over 10 years to provide all low and moderate income
children with high quality preschool.
The Administration's proposal would require the states to provide highly qualified
teachers, limited class sizes, and other rigorous preschool quality standards
for all Pre-K classrooms. The program would also encourage states to offer
full-day kindergarten to all students and support expanded Early Head Start
and child care for children from birth through age 3.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called high quality preschool a sure path
to the middle class and said it will "pay huge dividends down the road."
In the recently released report of the National Commission on Equity and Excellence, "For
Each and Every Child," the Commission concluded that the "research
is dispositive" on the benefit of high quality Pre-K" in preparing children
for success in school. Based on that finding, the Commission concludes that "universal
access to high-quality early learning programs must be a matter of the highest
national priority, with a special priority for children in our [lowest wealth]
Commissioner David Sciarra, who has led the legal effort to establish and
implement New Jersey's acclaimed "Abbott" Preschool Program, emphasized that "if
our nation is serious about improving educational opportunities and outcomes
for disadvantaged children, then we must provide these children well-planned,
high quality preschool. Without it, we simply will not close achievement gaps,
reduce drop-outs, and elevate graduation rates."
The Administration's proposal is timely, as states have slashed
preschool funding and services in recent years,
even while the total number of children and the proportion of children in poverty
As reported by Michael D. Shear in the New
York Times, sharply contrasting views are being
expressed. The President said, "Hope is found in what works. This works. We know
it works. If you are looking for a good bang for your educational buck, this
In response, the libertarian Cato Institute said, "It just doesn't make any
sense. Why would you want to very expensively expand the programs like this
if the evidence of effectiveness is not really sound?" Yet, even states such
as Oklahoma and Georgia, have demonstrated leadership in providing high quality
preschool to their youngest learners, the Times reported.
The Senate appropriations approval is the first step towards funding for some
of the President's proposal. As budget negotiations proceed, the Senate and
House will have several choices to make on whether and how to support our youngest