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Item 1 on Obama's To-Do List: Expand Pre-K Programs?

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For all the talk of how the already overdue reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act will present a major test for President-elect Obama and the newly beefed-up Democratic majority in Congress, some in Washington are betting that the first education item on their to-do list will be expanding pre-K programs.

Candidate Obama outlined a major "zero-to-five" initiative that included such things as visiting nurse services for at-risk pregnant mothers to grants to states to improve pre-kindergarten programs. The proposal took up a lot more ink in his education plan than his ideas for NCLB did.

Obama also advocated spending $10 billion more a year on pre-K, more than half of the $18 billion he proposed for additional federal spending on precollegiate education. Even though that's a hefty price tag in lean budget times, it might be an easier sell on Capitol Hill than the reauthorization of NCLB, which is going to be politically tricky, no matter which way you slice it.

I spoke today with Vic Klatt, a lobbyist and off-and-on Republican committee staffer. He noted that Obama talked a lot about pre-k legislation in the campaign.

“It’s relatively easy, relatively bipartisan," Klatt said. "If I were in their shoes, I’d lead with something like that.”

He said even get-rid-of-the-Department-of-Education Republicans in Congress have a hard time voting against preschool programs.

And, at least in my view, bolstering pre-K would win the new administration some good will with folks in the bolder, broader coalition who say that schools need extra supports, including better early childhood education, if student achievement is really going to improve. That might help the new administration and Congress sell some accountability provisions later on down on the line.

What does your crystal ball say? Is pre-K a good place to start? Or should Congress tackle NCLB first?

14 Comments

I agree that quickly advancing a serious early childhood initiative coupled with the reintroduction and swift passage of the Children's Health Insurance Program bill that was vetoed by the Bush administration would be an excellent start for the Obama administration. It would demonstrate that he is serious about resolving the inequities confronted by an obscene number of America's children.

If we can invest $40-50 billion in retooling our auto industry why would be shy about similar investments in our most important strategic resource - our children.
Yes we can!

Pre-k is an excellent place to start! President-elect Obama’s first step should be one that helps close the achievement gap and prepares our children to learn. Starting at the beginning will produce lifelong benefits. In fact, this investment would eliminate the need for greater spending later on. Research shows that high-quality pre-k reduces grade retention, increases high school graduation rates, and better prepares our children for the 21st century economy. Now more than ever, the middle class is struggling to provide early education for their children, and the federal government could play a vital role in increasing access, improving k-12 outcomes, and bettering the economic future of our country.

Our nation needs strong early educational policies to help get us through these tough economic times and prevent hardship in the future. Economists, business leaders, and policy makers from both sides of the aisle are on board with pre-k. What a great way to start the new administration.

Although additional funding for ECE is attractive and seemingly justified, let's really look at the big education picture. First, how can we get more males in ECE ? There is less than 5% of all personnel in ECE who are male. Second, since the mid-1960's billions and billions have been spent by HeadStart programs. Arguments can certainly be made whether there has been tangible benefits for these expenditures. Third, the current state of performance in the K-12 public school system is abysmal. Fourth, obtaining increased funding in the current economic climate is not at all realistic. Every industry in the United States is asking for multi-billion dollar bail-outs. Before we jump on the highly attractive bandwagon of increased funding for ECE programs, let's formulate what our performance goals are and how to accomplish them. One only need look at how California voters defeated UPK with Proposition 82 to understand how the general voting public feels incxreased funding in the ECE field. I urge everyone to take a breath before we know exactly what it is we're supposedly accomplishing. By the way, I have been in the field of ECE since 1983 as a teacher and administrator.

Please begin to build Continuous Quality Process Improvement into all Pre-K programs that will be data-driven!

I can help do this!
Dr. Franklin F. Sands
Former Director, Dept of Labor and Florida State University "Leadership Institute"

Please begin to build Continuous Quality Process Improvement into all Pre-K programs that will be data-driven!

I can help do this!
Dr. Franklin F. Sands
Former Director, Dept of Labor and Florida State University "Leadership Institute"

I agree with the idea of moving quickly with pre-k. I think there is a lot of energy for this and it could garner broad based support. With Head Start and Early Head Start programs having to cut services and turn away more low income children a good starting place would be to start there.

A good place to start would be investing in quality early childhood education by investing in Head Start and Early Head Start, the nation's premier early childhood programs. Substantial research demonstrates that Head Start and Early Head Start are quality programs and provide educational, economic, and law enforcement benefits. In fact, a recent article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that Head Start reduced child mortality rates for children aged 5 to 9 years-old who had been in Head Start. You can read about these many benefits by going to
http://www.nhsa.org/download/research/REDFactSheets1.pdf

Yes – starting with early childhood is an excellent first step. The local nature, mixed delivery, and economic return generated by investment in early childhood offers bi-partisan opportunities to the new administration. Investment in early childhood is wise as a stimulus to our economy too. 80% of the funding will reach the pockets of staff and many of these staff live and work in communities that have been most impacted by the current economic crisis.

The Head Start Program is one of the most positive educational programs. It is important that proper funding be made available so that families can receive the services, centers can continue to serve in this program, staff is adequately paid and supplies are available.

Concentrating on early education will do absolutely nothing to eliminate the "gap". Plus, with the economy the way it is, there will simply be no way to afford any initiatives.

He should concentrate on NCLB, hopefully without gutting the testing provisions too much.

Educators are concerned about the NCLB Act. Many teachers have lost their jobs due to the contents of the Act. This Act needs to restructured immediately.

Anyone who has reviewed the research knows the value of a developmentally appropriate early childhood program. Obama needs to concentrate his efforts in this area to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality early childhood program.

Expanding support of pre-K programs can only enhance the educational path of our children. In particular, Head Start and Early Head Start are vital entities that provide much needed services to low income children and their families. These programs have a proven track record. Before any new pre-K venues are created, HS and EHS should be adequately funded.

wow

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