Twelve months ago, President Barack Obama made history by making early childhood education a national priority in his 2013 State of the Union address. Tonight, we couldn’t be more thrilled that the president chose to reinforce early childhood education as one of the most important economic priorities for our nation.
Tonight, President Obama reiterated, “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.” The president emphasized the leadership that states as diverse as Mississippi and Michigan have displayed on early childhood education – stepping up to ensure that more children have access to high-quality early childhood programs. Much has been accomplished in the last 12 months, but we have more work to do. We look forward to working with the president and Congress to push the bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act. President Obama is right – “We need to get this done.”
The president’s remarks tonight come on the heels of the bipartisan Appropriations Bill, which restored cuts from sequestration and provided an increase of more than $1 billion in funding to early childhood education—a total investment of $1.5 billion that clearly shows Congress’ support for the future of America’s youngest children.
In the past 12 months, a bipartisan coalition of Americans have vocalized their support for increased investments in early childhood education, including business leaders, military officials, economists, law enforcement personnel, leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties and a vast majority of the American public. Momentum is building.
Early childhood education is the right investment to solve many of our country’s most pressing economic needs—including growing our economy, decreasing reliance on social programs, reducing deficit spending, and helping our children acquire the necessary skills they will need to get higher-paying jobs and compete on a global scale in the 21st century. A bipartisan poll conducted last July found that 70 percent of Americans agree and support a plan that will help states and local communities provide better early childhood education programs to children from birth to 5. These findings are reinforced by a newly released NBC/WSJ poll showing that 85 percent of Americans believe that access to early childhood education is a national priority, and only 22 percent saying it can wait until next year.
Governors, mayors and state legislators from red and blue states have made clear their support for early childhood education. For example, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has called for the largest one-year increase in funding for early childhood education the state has ever seen, and Mississippi, a state that made its first ever investment in early childhood education in 2013. Despite their determined efforts, states can’t do it alone. Federal investments, such as those the president outlined tonight, will be crucial to building effective federal-state partnerships to advance the effectiveness of these policies.
We only hope that the president will continue this commitment to early learning by calling on Congress to pass and fund the bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act. Too many children still lack access to opportunities that will prepare them for success in their future lives and careers. Increased federal funding through this bipartisan bill would enable more young children to participate in high-quality early education and help states develop more robust systems that more than pay for themselves in better education, health and economic outcomes.
FFYF applauds the president for keeping the momentum going this year and we look forward to taking the next steps to ensure that the Strong Start for America’s Children Act is passed to ensure the greatest success for all our children.