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Mel Gravely

Early Childhood Education Back in the National Spotlight after State of the Union

Early Childhood Education Back in the National Spotlight after State of the UnionThe past week has been quite a week for those of us in Early Childhood Education. It all started with Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 12th.

In his address, Obama said, “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children — like Georgia or Oklahoma — studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.”

On Wednesday, Obama visited a preschool in Decatur, Georgia to talk more about his plan, reiterating his view that access to early childhood education programs lays a foundation for later success in life.

By Thursday, the Administration put out the official release with an outline of the plan. The release states that the President “will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. By doing so, the President would invest critical resources where we know the return on our dollar is the highest: in our youngest children.”

Additional details from the outline include:
• Working with states to provide access to high quality preschool for all four year olds at or below 200% of poverty. These services would be provided in a diverse delivery system through community-based programs, local education agencies, and other partners – ensuring for high quality standards, qualified teachers, and comprehensive data and assessment systems.
• Expand the availability of full-day kindergarten.
• Strengthen and grow Head Start/Early Head Start in order to serve more of the most vulnerable infants, toddlers, and three year-olds.
• Create Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships to expand and strengthen the quality of infant/toddler care across the country. These partnerships recognize the high quality care that Early • Head Start provides and will bring that expertise to child care providers.
• Expand the evidence-based home visiting initiative.

Reactions to the State of the Union and subsequent visit were immediate. Within hours of the State of the Union, I had received several emails with reactions from both individuals and organizations.

Some, like and NHSA showed reserved optimism, with the former writing, “In human terms, it is difficult to overstate the benefits of high-quality early education programs.”

Others, like the Washington Post’s Fact Checker and several other news media, took issue with Obama’s use of the word “studies”, questioning the research and what it actually shows.

Over the next several weeks, we expect more information to be released with additional details on the plan. In the meantime, what do you think? Leave your comments below!

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