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Obama Administration Investments in Early Learning Have Led to Thousands More Children Enrolled in High-Quality Preschool

Washington, D.C. – Hundreds of thousands more children across the country have access to high-quality early learning programs today, compared to the beginning of the Obama Administration.

In 2013, President Obama put forth his bold Preschool for All proposal to establish a federal-state partnership that would provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. After the President's call, many states took action and today, all but four states offer preschool to young children. Overall, in the 2015-16 budget year, states increased their investments in preschool programs by nearly $767 million or 12 percent over the 2014-15 fiscal year. And, from 2009 to 2015, states enrolled 48,000 more 4-year-olds enrollment in state preschool.

The Obama Administration has increased investments by over $6 billion in early childhood programs from FY 2009 to FY 2016, including high-quality preschool, Head Start, child care subsidies, evidence-based home visiting, and programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities.

"A high-quality early education provides the foundation that every child needs to start kindergarten prepared for success," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "Because of historic investments from the Obama Administration, states and cities, more children—particularly those who have been historically underserved—now have access to high-quality early learning. But we can't stop there. We must continue our collective work to ensure that all children—regardless of socioeconomic status, race, background, language spoken at home, disability or zip code—have access to the opportunities that prepare them to thrive in school and beyond."

King talked about this progress during his visit to Pike View Early Childhood Center in the North Little Rock School District in Arkansas, which is one of 18 states that received Preschool Development Grants. Jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the grant program has led to 28,000 more children being served in new high-quality preschool classrooms or classrooms improved by supporting a well-qualified and compensated teacher, becoming full-day, reducing class size or child-teacher ratios, providing evidence-based professional development, and providing comprehensive services in 230 high-need communities in the 2015-16 school year, the first year of funding. This fall, funding from the grant's second year will enable an estimated additional 35,000 four-year-olds from low-income families to get the strong start they need for success in school and in life. Over the four years of the grants, approximately 150,000 additional children from low- to moderate-income families will attend high-quality preschool programs.

A new preschool program is included in the nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which also for the first time includes provisions to promote coordination in early learning among local communities; align preschool with early elementary school; and build the capacity of teachers, leaders, and others serving young children to provide the highest-quality early learning opportunities.

Number of new and improved preschool slots
funded by Preschool Development Grants in Year 1, by state

State

Children Served through PDG

Alabama

2,036

Arizona

1,252

Arkansas

2,638

Connecticut

625

Hawaii

75

Illinois

3,110

Louisiana

1,087

Maine

479

Maryland

2,732

Massachusetts

702

Montana

286

Nevada

782

New Jersey

1,636

New York

2,385

Rhode Island

260

Tennessee

4,778

Vermont

359

Virginia

2,804

Totals:

28,026

In addition, through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant program—jointly run by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services—the administration invested more than $1 billion to support 20 states in designing and implementing a cohesive system of quality early learning programs and services for young children from birth through age five. A report released last month shows that nearly 70,000 more early learning programs in the Early Learning Challenge states now participate in quality rating systems to enhance their programs, with more than 21,000 now rated highest in quality—more than double the number five years ago. States with RTT-ELC grants reported that nearly 267,000 children, particularly those with high-needs and from low-income families, are enrolled in state-funded preschool that meets high standards in the state quality rating and improvement system than there were in 2011. These grantees are working to align, coordinate and improve the quality of existing early learning programs across multiple funding streams that support children from birth through age 5.

While states and the federal government have invested in early education, more needs to be done to ensure every parent and family can access and enroll their child in a quality preschool program. Today, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, only 41 percent of all 4-year-olds and 16 percent of 3-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in publicly funded preschool through state programs, Head Start, or special education. Even fewer children are enrolled in the highest-quality programs.

Expanding access to high-quality early education is among the smartest investments that we can make as a country. President Obama's 2017 budget proposal includes expanding high-quality preschool through programs through the following proposals:

  • $75 billion over 10 years for the Preschool for All proposal to provide universal high-quality preschool programs for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
  • $350 million for Preschool Development Grants, an increase of $100 million over the FY 2016 funding level, to help states lay the foundation for universal public preschool.
  • An additional $82 billion over 10 years for the Child Care and Development Fund to provide high-quality child care for all low- and middle-income families with young children.
  • $434 million in additional funding for the Head Start program to increase the duration of Head Start services and maintain program quality and enrollment.

For more information visit the Early Learning page.

The Secretary's visit is part of the Education Department's seventh and final back-to-school bus tour this week to celebrate progress in communities and states across the country.

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