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Early Childhood Mentioned More Often at the Democratic National Convention

By Lillian Mongeau — July 29, 2016 2 min read
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Though neither party took time at their back-to-back conventions to lay out too many details concerning early childhood education, the topic was mentioned far more frequently at the Democratic National Convention this week.

At the Republican National Convention, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter, told delegates that her father would “focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all.”

Trump himself didn’t mention it. Nor is education listed as one of his “positions” on his campaign website. And having spent that week carefully writing down any mention of education at the Republican convention, with the help of my Hechinger Report colleague, Sarah Butrymowicz, I can tell you with certainty that no one else at the convention mentioned early childhood either.

(There was a bit of brouhaha about including a line in the Republican platform that called for the federal government to stay out of early childhood entirely. It was stricken and not included in the final platform. Generally there has been bipartisan support for Head Start, the biggest federal early childhood program.)

Early childhood wasn’t the primary topic at the Democratic convention either, but it did get more play. Several speakers mentioned quality child care as part of a list of things Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime fighting for. And two of the week’s most high-profile speakers, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, mentioned the importance of early learning.

“Hillary has real plans to address the concerns she’s heard from you on the campaign trail,” Obama told delegates on Wednesday night. “She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to help put kids in preschool and put students through college without taking on a ton of debt.”

Bill Clinton talked at some length about HIPPY, the nurse home visiting program for expecting and new mothers, that his wife helped bring to Arkansas during her time as First Lady. Here’s what he said:

She said she thought [HIPPY] would work in Arkansas. I said 'that's great, what are we going to do about it?' She said, 'oh, I already did it. I called the woman who started the program in Israel, she'll be here in about 10 days and help us get started.' Next thing you know I'm being dragged around to all these little preschool graduations. Now, keep in mind, this was before any state even had universal kindergarten and I'm being dragged to preschool graduations watching these poor parents with tears in their eyes because they never thought they'd be able to help their kids learn.

And then on Thursday, the final night of the convention, Hillary Clinton brought it up again.

“And you know what?” she said, “If fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the ‘woman card,’ then Deal Me In!”

I don’t know if this was the first time a presidential nominee included words about the importance of early childhood in a nomination acceptance speech, but I think it’s a fairly good bet. Can anyone tell me with certainty if this is a brand new thing?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.