Everyone’s ears perked up when President Obama announced his new early childhood education plan at the State of the Union last month. And many noticed when Jon Stewart started talked prekindergarten and the President’s plan on the Daily Show. But the focus on early care and education isn’t just happening at the national level: 27 governors across the country — from left, right, and center — signaled that early childhood was a priority for them in their State of the State addresses.
Like the President, these governors (and the Mayor of Washington, D.C.) recognize that investing in children in their earliest years is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Early care and education helps nurture young children and prepares them for future educational and career success, provides crucial support for parents, and strengthens our nation’s economy.
A number of governors called for significant new investments in early care and education to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he wanted to “ensure that every child in Massachusetts has access to high-quality early education.” West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced a plan to require every county, within three years, to offer full-day preschool for all four-year-olds. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder supported a “major budget commitment” to expand the state’s Pre-K program. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proposed to double funding for the state’s Pre-K program and increase state funding for Early Head Start. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proposed to add $6.4 million for the state’s Pre-K program and the state’s Head Start supplement as well as to provide child care assistance to 1,400 children on the waiting list.
Many governors recognize that child care and early education isn’t an option for families — it’s a necessity. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said that when he sought input from the public to help identify the state’s goals and priorities, “First and foremost, we heard about the great need for more and better child care services throughout the state.” He recommended a grant program for child care providers to address this need.
Governors from the deserts of New Mexico to the mountains of Montana to the forests of Vermont recognize that there’s no better way to invest in the future of their states than to invest in their youngest residents. Now it’s time for lawmakers in state houses and on Capitol Hill to get on board.