President Announces New Preschool Initiative in the State of the Union Address

Feb 13, 2013

By Stephanie Schmit and Christine Johnson-Staub

Last night in the State of the Union address, President Obama took a bold step forward in improving the lives of children and families. Like President Kennedy promising to land on the moon, President Obama's vision of making high quality preschool available to every child in the nation could impact the lives of all children, their families, and the country for generations to come with far-reaching educational, economic and social benefits.

As the President said - and research indicates - "Every dollar we invest in high quality early education can save us $7 later on" in related public expenses. Further, plenty of research going back decades shows that access to high quality child care and early education particularly benefits children who are low-income and otherwise disadvantaged. For these children and their families, this investment and the President's commitment to work with states to implement universally available preschool is critical. CLASP supports the President's proposal and will work with the administration to see it move forward as the official details of the initiative emerge.

At the same time, we must remain vigilant in ensuring that economically struggling families with young children are still supported with the other major investments that provide access to child care and early education. While investment in preschool will have a positive impact on 4-year-old children now and in the future, child care subsidies for even younger children offer critical economic assistance to the working families the President seeks to support with other proposals like minimum wage increases, educational access, and job creation. As the president and Congress near the impending sequestration, they must use a balanced approach in settling their differences that encompasses both spending cuts and revenue increases. Potential massive cuts to child care subsidies and Head Start for the very lowest income children will undermine the progress made by any future investment in expanding preschool.  Such cuts would still leave many young, vulnerable children of working families without stable child care and early education opportunities.

As the President said, "So let's do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind." An investment in high quality preschool for all - combined with protecting current investments in child care and early education - is a step in the right direction for children and families.

Read the entire SOTU transcript >>

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