Obama pushes preschool for all kids

President's plan would make a year of optional preschool free for low- and moderate-income children.
Feb 18, 2013


President Barack Obama visited a preschool in Georgia last week to unveil details about his new plan to ensure that all 4-year-olds -- including those whose families struggle to make ends meet -- receive the same opportunities for a high-quality early education.

Funded by federal and state tax dollars, the president's plan would be a dramatic expansion of education for 4-year-olds, by making a year of optional preschool free for low- and moderate-income children.

"Hope is found in what works," Obama said at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, part of Georgia's widely available preschool program, funded by the state lottery. "This works. We know it works. If you're looking for a good bang for your educational buck, this is it, right here."

States would have to meet quality standards before they could apply for federal funds. The program would encourage states to assist middle-class families as well, possibly on a sliding scale. It also would expand early learning for infants and toddlers.

The goal, Obama said, would be to take advantage of the crucial learning period from birth to age 5 and close the achievement gap between poor children and their better-off peers.

Before he spoke to a room of adults, the president sat in a classroom with 16 4- and 5-year-olds busying themselves with blocks and iPads. Their self-portraits hung above them, fastened with clothespins.

At one table, the president sat in a child-sized chair and played with a magnifying glass with some of the children.

"This is sort of like 'I Spy,' " he said. "I remember 'I Spy.' "

The president's proposal would offer public preschool to families who earn at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four -- the equivalent of $46,100 annually.

Only 28 percent of 4-year-olds nationwide were enrolled in state-funded preschools in 2010-2011, according to the latest preschool survey from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

While preschool is the focus, the plan also includes an expanded Early Head Start for infants and toddlers, and an expansion of voluntary home visits by social workers and others for parenting education and support.

Congressional Republicans questioned in a news release on Thursday whether this expansion of early education would be effective and affordable.

"We can all agree on the importance of ensuring children have the foundation they need to succeed in school and in life," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. But he added, "The president's new early childhood education proposal should be carefully evaluated to ensure it will work for families and taxpayers without piling more debt on the backs of the children it is intended to benefit."

White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz said the funding details would not be disclosed until the president's budget is released in several weeks.

"None of this adds a nickel to the deficit," she said. "We've figured out a way to pay for it."

The plan could have wide popular appeal, especially with working parents. The White House also claimed that it would save participants and taxpayers money at a rate of $7 to every dollar spent, through results such as less crime and more job opportunities.

"Most middle-class parents can't afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool," Obama told his audience. "And for the poor children who need it the most, the lack of access to a great preschool education can have an impact on their entire lives. And we all pay a price for that."

The president said that he remembered from his own parenting that finding good child care can be hard, and expensive.

"The size of your paycheck, though, shouldn't determine your child's future," he said. "So let's fix this. Let's make sure none of our kids start out the race of life already a step behind."

States would have to meet certain benchmarks to qualify for federal preschool support under Obama's plan, which would involve meeting state-level standards, employing qualified teachers and monitoring student learning.

The federal government is already in the preschool business with Head Start, a program for low-income families with children from birth to age 5. Some studies have shown that the benefits of Head Start have a "fadeout" period by around third grade.

Kenneth Dodge, director of the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy, said research studies show that preschool has positive effects as children enter kindergarten and elementary school.

"Then the question is how long the effects last," he said. "But that depends on the school system they're entering."

A conservative policy would give money that otherwise would be spent on Head Start to parents so that they could put their children in private or church-based preschools, said Lindsey Burke, an education fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"Head Start has been a 48-year-long failed experiment with government preschool, and I'm afraid we'll see more of the same, based on the president's proposals," Burke said.

She said birth to age 5 was a pivotal learning period, "which is why I wouldn't want the government involved in such a critical time. We want children with families, with parents."

Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an education advocacy group, said the quality care for disadvantaged children from birth to age 3, combined with expanded access to pre-kindergarten, was "exactly what has proven to work in early childhood education programs."

"We know learning begins early, and it's good common sense that you can't start at 5 and expect children to catch up," said Helen Blank, director of Child Care and Early Education at the National Women's Law Center. "We've taken some steps, but we've got a long way to go to close the gap."


By Renee Schoof - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

(c)2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



I think that this is a great idea! Hopefully it will help close the achievement gap. All kiddos deserve an excellent education, regardless of their family's income.


Fine Obama can pull the funds out of HIS pockets and pay for it HIMSELF.


wsos already provides this service. maybe we educate the kids that are already in school at a higher level.

Simple Enough II

WSOS is a self licking ice cream cone. Their program is a high dollar day care care for the low rents (IMO).


Does anyone know where I can get the complete series of "Three's Company" on DVD? Thanks.


The game exchange in sandusky may still have it. I just traded it in for the cyndi lauper vynal girls just wana have fun.


Most public preschools (at least in this area) base their availablitiy on the parent's income. So, if you make too much you are placed on a waiting list and usually don't make it into the program. Now, that's fine and dandy if there are other programs in the area that are private, but if not... you're child doesn't get to attend preschool. Would Obama make preschool mandatory?


I don't see how he can make it mandatory. Only 8 states require children to start school at 5 years old. 24 states have a start by age 6 requirement, 16 states by age 7 and 2 states by age 8. Fortunately, most people don't utilize the option to delay enrollment. It would be an uphill battle to require all children to be enrolled in preschool by age 4.

Now The Rest of...

The Feds just admitted that Head Start has failed to achieve helping these children enter school at a cost of 20 billion dollars. Now they want preschool, who's going to pay for yet another federal program, hint we are.... These same children can pay the interest to China to help pay this debt when they are adults.

Simple Enough II

Agree. Yes stick these children in a high dollar day care then send them back to the same environment that will hold them back...yes their home.


I thought Obama was going to hit his second campaign off with jobs jobs jobs.


Obama will make it mandatory and will start the Preschool Teacher's Union himself. Heck, he'll probably hand out cards to and help organize it. There will be a whole new layer of public jobs jobs jobs :)


What good does it even do to have a good job and make money anymore? You get more benefits when you make less money. That's not fair either.


This is part of that.
More teachers = more union jobs = more campaign funds for Democrats = more brain washed future voters for Democrats.


propman - What planet are you living on? Teachers are NOT the villans here, SOCIETY is. The junk that is on TV, in the movies, and on the video games prove that. It is NOT the fault of the teachers. It takes an entire COMMUNITY to raise ONE child. We wouldn't need to have pre-schools if ALL parents took the time at home to work with their own children to prepare them for Kindergarten, take an interest in their education, or at least teach them how to tie their own shoes. But, it is much easier to blame the teachers for all of society's problems . . . isn't it?


Windy, I was stating how I believe Obama sees it.
Education begins at home and all adults in the kids life should be allowed to correct the child when they error.


For further explanation Obama is closely connected to Bill Ayers-
a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago,is an American elementary education theorist and a former leader in the movement that opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He is known for his 1960s radical activism as well as his current work in education reform, curriculum, and instruction. In 1969 he co-founded the Weather Underground, a self-described communist revolutionary group[2] that conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings (including police stations, the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Pentagon) during the 1960s and 1970s in response to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.


Teachers are not villains, or 'villans,' as you say, but yet you bash me because apparently all I do is sit around and collect your tax money. Logic is obviously NOT your friend.


Reads like a great idea. But why stop there?

Chauffer them to school in limousines. Think of all the new chauffer jobs and the new mfging jobs customizing limos in order to accommodate the little tikes.

The Federal Resv. is buying approx. three-fours of U.S. Treasuries now.

Just phone Mr. Bernanke and tell him to print some more "funny money."

Bread and circuses for EVERYONE!!!


What liberals believe:

"•The US government has plenty of money.

•Government cares for its citizens.

•The economy cannot crash.

•We are not in a recession (Depression).

•The lives of their children will be better than their own.

•The government can continue to print money to fund promises they cannot afford."



The master of the straw man argument strikes again! Thanks for the laughs.


Obama will continue to pick away and spend more and more money on pointless pet projects. I mean who really believes this guys anymore. Jobs, getting people back to work....nahhhh lets just pass that stuff up, raise taxes some more, chase more companies out of America and start up some national programs that have already failed (head start) so America can get into debt more.

Where will the money come from. No new taxes? Nothing he will do will add to the national debt? His word about two weeks ago...not mine. Bottom line is they both do not add up, unless his fairytale world revolves around unicorns, pixie dust and money trees...which wouldn't surprise me.

This guys is a fraud, a liar and a cheat.


We've got wars to fight damn it!!!! Tanks and F16s don't grow on trees.


I'll be gosh darned if I let my kids be educated! There are rich people to support! Can anyone find the brain dead logic? Probably not, because education is for those darned hippie liberals. Sheeple is the only way to be! 'Murica!


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks that discriminate based on age, race, religion, disability, etc..


The liberal way: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I don't care who pays for it, just gimme! Gimme! Gimme! "Intelligent liberal" is an oxymoron, so I won't even bother trying to look for one.


The Conservative Way: I got mine, to heck with the rest of you. Government handouts are only appropriate when they benefit me! ME, ME, ME, ALL MINE!


betrump - In a capitalistic society, as in the United States, one is supposed to WORK for what they have. Things are NOT meant to be handed out on a silver platter. Unfortunately, our society's work ethic is dying and more and more people are sitting around with their hand out.

My grandparents lived through the Great Depression and they REFUSED to take ANY handouts because they had PRIDE. Pride is not in a liberal's vocabulary.

If you want socialism, where everyone makes the same wages and has the same possessions, no matter what their profession, move to another country. I'll help you pack your bags.


Gee, thanks for the political science lesson. I thought you conservatives didn't believe in PRIDE, because it was one of the seven deadly sins? Your definition of pride, by the way, is messed up. If you'd rather let your kids starve before you took a handout, you're not proud; you're braindead.


betrump - You didn't thank me. The taxes I pay from my two jobs are providing you and your liberal friends with all of your "entitlements". That's OK, you just keep sitting there, trolling the comment section on your free "Obama phone" and munching on the chips purchased with the food stamps that my fellow workers and I provided for you, and you keep telling us what terrible people we are. The taxpayers and I will be back at work today so you won't have to get off your lazy butt.

And think of us while you're taking advantage of the local ER to have your hangnail treated for FREE because of the Medicaid my fellow workers and I have toiled so hard to provide for you. We will still be at work trying to tough it through our ailments, so we don't get points counted against us for not being at work.

You're welcome.


You're my hero. But I don't have an Obamaphone. It's a Reaganphone. Oh, I think I feel a hangnail coming on...must have gotten it from eating all that free food you gave me.