With President Barack Obama's recent inauguration comes important news out of Washington, D.C. Obama's support for early childhood education was well documented during his campaign, and such support has continued through his transition and the early days of his administration.
First, Congressional Democrats have unveiled their outline for the $825 billion federal stimulus package requested by the president, of which $4.7 billion is proposed to be targeted to early childhood education programs. This is lower than what some advocates had requested, but still significant.
The specifics are as follows:
- Child Care Development Block Grant: $2 billion to provide child care services for an additional 300,000 children in low-income families while their parents go to work.
- Head Start: $2.1 billion to provide comprehensive development services to help 110,000 additional children succeed in school.
- IDEA Infants and Families: $600 million for formula grants to help states serve children with disabilities age two and younger.
Deliberations on the stimulus package will likely continue through much of next month, with congressional leaders promising a final vote by the middle of February.
The full proposal can be found at: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/PressSummary01-15-09.pdf
In addition, Arne Duncan, former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, was unanimously confirmed as the new Secretary of Education. During his confirmation hearing, he laid out President Obama's agenda, including prioritizing early childhood education:
"First, we must invest in early childhood education," he said. "Too many children show up for kindergarten already behind. Many never catch up. The President's ‘Zero-to-Five' proposal calls for:
- Greater supports for working parents with young children.
- Early-learning challenge grants to states.
- Voluntary universal preschool quality enhancements.
- More resources to build on the successes of Head Start and Early Head Start.
President Obama also plans to establish a Presidential Early Learning Council to better integrate preschool programs and resources."
Duncan's full testimony is available at: http://help.senate.gov/Hearings/2009_01_13/Duncan.pdf .