Obama to push universal preschool proposal
Two days after his State of the Union pledge to guarantee high quality preschool for every 4-year-old in the U.S., President Barack Obama takes his pitch on the road on Thursday to an Atlanta suburb where he will deliver a speech on the issue at a local recreation center.
Obama cast his preschool plan as a way to bring low-income and minority children up to speed with higher-income children—a move he says would save taxpayer money and give those children greater opportunity to succeed over their lifetimes.
"Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime," Obama said in his State of the Union remarks. "In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, 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."
The president is set to speak at 1:20 p.m. ET at the Decatur Community Recreation Center, after a tour of a local pre-kindergarten classroom.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House on Thursday morning, Obama's preschool plan would create a new federal-state cost-sharing partnership to guarantee high-quality preschool to all low- and moderate-income 4-year-old children, including families that earn up to 200 percent of the poverty level. The program would be extended to middle-class families who may pay on a sliding scale, and would incentivize full-day kindergarten.
The Department of Education will allocate funds to states based on the number of 4-year-olds in each state who qualify. Standards for preschools will include "well-trained teachers, who are paid comparably to K-12 staff," as well as small class size and a rigorous curriculum.
White House officials said the new preschool proposal will not replace or destroy the current Head Start early education government program. Instead, a new early Head Start program will be created to support communities affected by the new preschool proposal.
The White House has not released cost estimates for the new preschool plan. The president has said this proposal and others announced in his address would not add to the federal deficit