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PAYING "HUGE DIVIDENDS," HIGH QUALITY PRE-K DEMANDS NEW FEDERAL INVESTMENT
July 24, 2013

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] communities."

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 have grown.

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 is it."

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 learners.

Related Stories:
Drastic State Cuts to Pre-K Put Youngest Learners at Risk
As States Slash Pre-K Programs Time to Make High Quality Early Education a Legal Right
Preschool Gives Kids a Big Boost and Must Be a High Priority
Pre-K Trends Downward
Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19
www.edlawcenter.org
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