Obama pushes preschool programs in Georgia trip

President Barack Obama on Thursday pitched a new plan to make preschool available to all 4-year-old children, declaring, "Education has to start at the earliest possible age."
Associated Press
Feb 15, 2013

With teachers as a backdrop, Obama made his case for greater access to preschool, arguing that poor children in particular can benefit. "Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the better he or she does down the road," he said. "But here's the thing: We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance."

It was Obama's second day on the road, after Tuesday's State of the Union address, to promote initiatives for his second term directly to the public.

His visit came on the same day Education Secretary Arne Duncan told senators on Capitol Hill that pending budget cuts could be devastating to current students and could hurt the nation's economy for years to come, if students aren't learning now.

"We're trying to do a lot more in terms of early childhood education, not go in the opposite direction," Duncan said. "Doing that to our most vulnerable children is education malpractice, economically foolish and morally indefensible."

Obama's team is warning Congress — and lawmakers' constituents — what is expected to happen if leaders fail to avert $85 billion in automatic budget cuts set to begin March 1. With the cuts looming, the administration has increased its pressure on lawmakers, and Obama's address Tuesday made clear he was not looking for compromise as he begins his second term.

Before his remarks in Decatur, Obama stopped by a classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, which serves kids from infancy through pre-kindergarten. He played games with about a dozen children, bending down to give hugs or offer a fist bump.

"If you're looking for a good bang for your education buck , this is it right here," Obama said afterward. He praised the teachers as highly qualified. "This is not babysitting. This is teaching."

The White House fleshed out Obama's plan Thursday, proposing a "continuum of high-quality early learning for a child, beginning at birth and continuing to age 5." The government would fund public preschool for any 4-year-old whose family income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level — a more generous threshold than the current Head Start program, which generally serves kids from families below 130 percent of the poverty line. All 50 states and the federal government would chip in.

Obama also is proposing letting communities and child care providers compete for grants to serve children 3 and younger, starting from birth. And once a state has established its program for 4-year-olds, it can use funds from the program to offer full-day kindergarten, the plan says.

Still missing from Obama's plan are any details about the cost, a key concern among Republicans. The White House says federal investment in Head Start, an $8 billion program that serves almost 1 million kids, will grow. But Obama's aides have stressed that the new programs would not add to the nation's nearly $16.5 trillion debt.

"The last budget had over $1.5 trillion of mandatory and revenue savings, things like reductions in entitlements, closing loopholes," Jason Furman, a deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Wednesday. He said the new initiatives would be smaller than that. Obama will outline details about the plan's cost when he sends his 2014 budget proposal to Congress next month, Furman said.

Ahead of that, the White House and Congress are weighing whether to let the deep automatic spending cuts to take hold on March 1. If that happens, some 10,000 teachers could be out of work and 70,000 students could be kicked out of Head Start programs, Duncan warned lawmakers. The cuts would also force an additional 14,000 Head Start workers to be laid off and would mean 1.2 million students from low-income families would have their schools' funding cut. Washington also would stop paying its share of 7,200 special needs educators' salaries.

If the White House wants to move ahead, officials are going to need help from the states to provide political cover and dollars alike. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday involving the federal government in early childhood education was "a good way to screw it up." The Republican chairman of the House committee overseeing education policy, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was cool toward the proposal and was unlikely to support new spending on it. And even Obama's allies acknowledged there was little Washington could do without governors' help.

Kline said that "before we spend more taxpayer dollars on new programs, we must first review what is and is not working in existing initiatives, such as Head Start."

Republicans and conservatives have questioned the effectiveness of Head Start programs, citing studies such as a Health and Human Services Department report last year showing that, while at-risk students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten programs saw tremendous gains in vocabulary and social development, those benefits largely faded by the time students reached third grade. The HHS report didn't explain why the students saw a drop-off in performance or predict how they would fare as they aged.

"There's reason for huge skepticism," said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. "Most states are still in a ditch financially, and it's going to be a couple years before they're out of it. ... I don't know where the states are going to come up with the money for this."

Scores of other studies, however, were more favorable toward the program, which has been shown to make at-risk students more likely to complete high school and avoid criminal arrests. In pure dollars and cents, academics called it a smart investment.




Don't the parents have any responsibility in educating their children anymore?


Obama wants the government to think and act for you........parenting?.....whats that word.

BW1's picture

The election was too close - too many people are still not voting "correctly." Thus, we have a call to get them into government indoctrination earlier, to better produce an electorate that will vote "correctly."


Your right! Of course, it's a lot easier to redraw congressional districts to get the desired outcome and less expensive than years of "brainwashing." I think those on the right are mostly worried about people being able to think and reason-kind of like those in Texas who oppose teaching critical thinking skills in schools.


Quoting verbatim from the Slate or Huffpo there 9299????

The Big Dog's back

Actually Obama won in a landslide.


Forgive them Dog for they have no clue what they are talking about!


Huh????? Oh I get it, trolling again huh, Brutus!!!

BW1's picture

Not in the popular vote. That was a 2% margin.

The Big Dog's back

I'd call winning by 5 million votes a landslide. BTW it's 4%.

BW1's picture

That word does not mean what you think it means - you're suffering from vicarious delusions of grandeur. Landslides include Roosevelt in 36, Johnson in 64, and Nixon in 72, all with more than 30% popular vote margins. 4% isn't even an average victory.




I feel sorry for kids these days. It seems like everyone wants them to grow up fast so they don't have to take responsibility for them. Kids need time to learn how to play in life. Then they don't have to try and do it when they are in their 20's and 30's.


Reads like a great idea. But why stop there?

Chauffer them to school in limousines. Think of all the new chauffer jobs and the new mfging jobs customizing limos in order to accommodate the little tikes.

The Federal Resv. is buying approx. three-fours of U.S. Treasuries now.

Just phone up Mr. Bernanke and tell him to print some more "funny money."

Bread and circuses for EVERYONE!!!


Winnie, you once came out against healthy school lunches. Winnie, great American!


Don't you vote against school levies Zippy? :)


Santa Claus coming to town to offer more free stuff with borrowed treasure. I'm all for educating our children but we as a nation are broke.


Well, instead of perpetuating the myth of Santa, use that money to educate your kids!


My point was how are they going to pay for it? where is this extra money going to come from. I have a question that I want everyone to answer seriously, what would happen if the USD lost it's status of being the world's reserve currency? Think about that for a moment.


here's an idea.....why don't we better educate those who are already in school??? also, you can already enroll your child in pre-school at the age of 4 if you want. i believe that wsos provides pre-school to children whose parents are on the dole.


Only those on the "dole"? Snap out of it.


My twins did not go to preschool. I could NOT afford it. And yes MOST preschools you need to pay for. As a parent I thought it was MY job to teach them. They knew everything they needed and passed the screening with flying colors. The school district we were in STILL wanted to put them in preschool, to "catch up". I told them NO. The are now 16 and honor roll students. If they are wanting everyone to use a preschool program why are the still SO EXPENSIVE!?


Send our children to government indoctrination plants by the time they are four. Perhaps he could call it “Obama Youth”?


I like it! We've already got that creepy symbol of an "O" rising above a flowing field of red and white to go on the armbands and military style caps.


If they start the indoctination early enough, they won't have anyone to question it when these youths are adults.


Really! My kids mostly came home for the early grades talking about Washington and Lincoln. I don't recall any discussion with them about the Democratic or Republican platform issues. I guess I sent them to the wrong public democratic/socialist indoctrination school.

BW1's picture

Then you're not paying attention.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal information.

Swamp Fox

What money tree is being picked to pay for yet another government program? Didn't Obama state that none of his proposals during the State of the Union "will cost a dime" which is true, it will cost billions....


More lies from the messiah......aren't you use to it yet. I was after 1 year in office.

Oh and don't worry, they will pay for it by cranking the printing press to 9.....its on 8 right now.