In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the President called for making prekindergarten available to all children through a federal-state partnership. He made a compelling case for this investment in early education, noting the benefits for children, parents, and our nation’s economy. He explained how early education could help children succeed in school and in life. He talked about the importance of helping parents struggling with the high costs of preschool. And he discussed his proposal as a key part of building the strong workforce we need for our future economic prosperity.
The President demonstrated his commitment to early education not only by mentioning it in his State of the Union address, but also by inviting Susan Bumgarner, an early childhood educator from Oklahoma—a state that makes prekindergarten available to all four-year-olds—to be a guest of the First Lady during the address. Susan Bumgarner is one of the many early education teachers (most of whom are women) across our country who are helping our children grow and learn so they are ready for school.
We are excited about this proposal and about working to make it a reality for children and families. We look forward to hearing more details, as there are many questions about exactly what form it will take and how it will work. For example: What role will states play in making prekindergarten available? How will we provide high-quality supports not only for four-year-olds but—given the importance of the earliest years to children’s development—for infants and toddlers as well? How will we ensure that that the prekindergarten programs offered are of high quality? How can we design the proposed early education programs to meet the diverse needs of families, including the child care needs of working parents?
Regardless of the remaining details, this is a great step forward—and it’s just the beginning. On Thursday, the President will be highlighting early education once again when he visits the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center (which includes Head Start, Early Head Start, state-funded prekindergarten, and preschool special education programs) in Decatur, Georgia, a state that has long been a leader in supporting universal prekindergarten. We will keep you posted as we learn more about the President’s plans for early education. And you can thank the President for his commitment to early education and encourage him to keep this issue on the top of the agenda by sharing your comments with the White House through their website.
The President’s call for increased access to early education comes at a time when many governors are also proposing to expand funding for child care and prekindergarten. These leaders all recognize that the early education investments are some of the wisest investments we can make because they pay off far into the future for our children, families, and nation as a whole. Hopefully, the President and those governors already demonstrating support for early care and education will build on one another’s proposals and encourage other governors and policymakers to join in efforts to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities.