Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children
Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

It was inspiring to hear President Obama call for universal preschool in his State of the Union address. Now, his 2014 federal budget proposal for a national expansion of preschool could create early education and care programs that give more of the country’s children the early start they need to achieve lifelong success.

“A zip code should never predetermine the quality of any child’s educational opportunities,” the White House said in a statement. Sadly, zip codes do matter when they define high concentrations of poverty. As the White House notes, “studies show that children from low-income families are less likely to have access to high-quality early education, and less likely to enter school prepared for success.”

As part of the national Early Learning Day of Action, Eye On Early Education joins advocates in states across the country in answering the question – What would the president’s bold $75 billion proposal mean if it became law? Here’s what we think the historic proposal would lead to:

In the short term:

– High-quality programs — with strong curriculum and well-trained teachers — that promote child’s growth and development.

– Increased access to early education programs that would eliminate the long waiting lists of families seeking placements for their children.

Language-rich settings that develop children’s oral and literacy skills.

Opportunities to introduce STEM concepts to young children and build off their natural curiosity about the world around them.

– Children who are happy, engaged and ready for kindergarten.

– Three-, four- and five-year old English Language Learners who develop strong literacy and math skills in pre-k.

– A business community that’s more engaged in early learning and more confident in the skill and quality of tomorrow’s workforce.

Over time:

–   Higher numbers of third graders reading at grade level and prepared for long-term success in school.

Decreases in special education placements, grade retention and numbers of high school dropouts.

– A narrowing of the educational achievement gap between high-income and low-income children.

–   Long-term economic, social and health benefits for participants, leading to a return on investment of 10-16%.

In sum, we hope that a larger federal investment in educating young children promises to create personal, educational and economic benefits for generations to come.