Yesterday Russ Whitehurst and I participated in a debate on the federal role in early childhood education, hosted by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Video of the full debate is now available online here.
One point I made during the debate is that, however dimly political insiders may view the prospects for the President’s proposal in the near term, over the long term it’s virtually inevitable that we’ll see expanded public spending on pre-k, leading ultimately to universal preschool access. Why am I so optimistic about this? Two reasons: First, the trend in developed (and, increasingly, developing) countries has been towards expanding children’s access to quality preschool. The U.S. currently lags its peers on this front, but over time it’s going to be imperative that we catch up if we want to maintain our economic competitiveness. Second--and probably more immediately important--after several years of stagnant state budgets due to the recession, we’re now seeing states take up the lead again on expanding pre-k.
As the National Women’s Law Center reports, 27 governors included early childhood education in their 2013 state of the state addresses, and 15 of them called for expansion of preschool. Equally important, support for preschool is a bipartisan initiative at the state level--Republican Governors in Michigan and Alabama, among other states, called for significant increases in pre-k spending. Maybe Congressional Republicans could learn a thing or two from their state-level peers on this front.
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.