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White House Summit Addresses Lack of Hispanics in Preschool

Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population under the age of 5, yet less than half are enrolled in preschool—a problem that could be abated by President Barack Obama's Preschool for All program, White House officials said
Wednesday at a summit in Miami.

Business and nonprofit leaders met with White House leaders at Miami Dade College to discuss the issue and bring awareness to it, a statement from the White House said.

The trend is alarming, agreed Peggy McLeod, the deputy vice president for education and the workforce development for the National Council of La Raza, a Washington-based advocacy organization, in an e-mail.

"The reasons for low attendance of Hispanic preschoolers are varied and include family poverty and lack of English-language skills," McLeod wrote. "Although Latino parents want their children in preschool programs, they often have difficulty accessing affordable, high-quality programs in their neighborhoods. Parents often are confused by the options available, the eligibility requirements of different programs, and lack of awareness of available child-care assistance."

Moreover, she added that participation by Hispanic children in pre-K programs actually decreased between 2005 and 2009.

"We are trying to shift from, 'Isn't this a nice thing to do for our children?' to 'This is an economic investment,'‚ÄČ" former investment banker and early-years advocate Diana Rauner told the Miami Herald. She called for private companies and policymakers to adopt a serious approach to early education.

Obama aims to spend $75 billion on preschool programs over the next decade through federal-state partnerships for children in low- and moderate-income families. He also hopes to extend and expand home visits, among other efforts.

The summit was convened by the White House Initiative on Educational Learning and its Presidential Advisory Commission.

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