U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized the importance of early-childhood education last week as he toured rural Kentucky communities.
Duncantalked with educators who received the country’s first rural Promise Neighborhood grant, but much of the media coverage of his visit focused on early-childhood education. Duncan put the spotlight on a Save the Children program that includes home visits for children from birth to age three and serves 12,500 children in mostly rural Kentucky.
Duncan stopped by a family’s home in Whitley County, which has free, public preschool available to all 4-year-olds. President Obama has proposed creating a national program, as well as expanding voluntary home-visit programs.
“What’s happening right here in Whitley County can serve as a national model for expanding access to early education for all children,” Mark Shriver, the senior vice president for strategic initiatives for Save the Children, in said in a statement.
The Washington Post published a piece that focused on Duncan’s visit as it related to Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program, which helps children develop literacy and the skills to succeed in school and life.
“There is a lot of need in urban centers,” Shriver is quoted as saying. “But in rural America, poverty levels are higher, obesity rates are higher, unemployment rates are higher, and resources are less.”
The Times-Tribune in Corbin, Ky., covered the early-learning town hall meeting that Duncan held after seeing the home-visit program, and he talked about wanting to mandate early education.
“Government needs to invest in early education, not just talk about it,” he said in the story. “States like Kentucky are doing the right thing. Washington needs to get their heads out of the sand.”
Audience members asked about whether the federal government had a plan for rural ares to overcome early education obstacles, and Duncan said they were working on bipartisan support to make a big investment on early education.
Duncan also was in Ohio last week to talk about rural school issues.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.