President Obama got religion on early childhood education last week, proposing for the first time in his State of the Union address that all four-year-olds have access to high quality preschool. His start point is slightly less ambitious than universal pre-K, making sure that "low- and moderate-income" kids have access to it first. Not a bad start.
We already know the reasons that governments should invest in early education. "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," Obama said.
We have covered pre-K issues on this blog, including a post in January on universal preschool. But the president's proposal adds new life to the conversation, along with new questions.
The First Five Years Fund, for example, was thrilled at the attention to a long-neglected issue, but the group also insists that educators need to pay attention to the first three years of life. The group's executive director Kris Perry said Obama's announcement "will go down in history as the turning point for building a stronger America through better education." She also noted that Obama's proposed boost in Early Head Start--providing quality care to disadvantaged kids from birth to age three--is a critical component of for "success in pre-school, school, career, and life."
The only problem, as always, is that these investments cost money. And Congress controls that process, not the White House.
How much did the president boost the early childhood education movement by highlighting it in his speech? Is this the right direction for him to go in education? How will states collaborate with the federal government to make sure four-year-olds get to preschool? What happens if states aren't willing? How can non-government advocacy groups help with the effort?